Cow Vetch
Vicia cracca

f18 @ 1/320s, ISO:1250, Nikon D3S w 105mm macro

"Vicia cracca," Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. Vicia cracca (tufted vetch, cow vetch, bird vetch, blue vetch, boreal vetch), is a species of vetch native to Europe and Asia. It occurs on other continents as an introduced species, including North America, where it is a common weed. It often occurs in disturbed habitats, including old fields and roadside ditches. Cow vetch is in the family Fabaceae and similar to a pea in growth habit with climbing stems growing to 150 cm long, perennial, sending out noose-like branched tendrils from the tips of its leaves when it contacts another plant and securely fastens itself. This can cause "strangling" of smaller plants. An individual plant may reach a length (or height) of 2 m with a white taproot, which may extend up to 1 m. The leaves are 38 cm long, pinnate, with 812 pairs of leaflets, each leaflet 510 mm long. The plant is fast-growing and flowers prolifically, sending out 10 to 40 flowered one-sided racemes cascading pea-flower shaped purple to violet flowers from the leaf axil during its late spring to late summer flowering period. The flowers are mostly visited by bumblebees; when the flowers drop off and tiny bright green seed pods 1020 mm long, start to form. Cow vetch is very similar to hairy vetch (Vicia villosa), but is distinguished from the latter by its smooth stem.
Francis A. Crane Wildlife Management Area, East Falmouth, Massachusetts