Flower Color: Blue-purple, pinkish-purple, reddish-lavender to lavender; pea-like flowers (up to 10) from leaf axils, fruit is a pod with several seeds.
Flowering Season: May to September, earlier and shorter season in California blooming from April to June; and shorter in Texas where it blooms from May to July.
Elevation: 5,000 to 10,000 feet (1,524 - 3,048 m) .
Habitat Preferences: Open moist areas, disturbed areas and along streams, sandy, loamy soil habitats; American Deervetch is a climbing species in many habitats including chaparral vegetation habitat.
Recorded Range: American Deervetch is found throughout most of North America, generally absent is the southeastern and far north eastern parts of the United State. Good populations throughout the southwestern states, Texas has only a few geographic representations.
North America species range map for American Deervetch, Vicia americana:
Click image for full size map.
U.S. Weed Information: Unknown
Invasive/Noxious Weed Information: Unknown
Wetland Indicator: In North America Vicia americana, has the following wetland designations;
Arid West, FAC
Atlantic and Gulf Coastal Plain, FACU;
Eastern Mountains and Piedmont, FACU;
Great Plains, FACU;
Northcentral & Northeast, FACU;
Western Mountains, Valleys, and Coast, FAC;
FACU, Facultative Upland, usually occur in non-wetlands, but may occur in wetlands
FAC, Facultative, occur in wetlands and non-wetlands.
Threatened/Endangered Information: "Purple Vetch" is apparently extirpated in Maryland.
Genus Information: In North America, USDA Plants Database lists species and accepted taxa overall for Vicia. Worldwide, World Flora Online includes 845 accepted species names and a further 276 scientific names of infraspecific rank for the genus.
In the Southwestern United States: Arizona has 6 species of genus, California has 17 species, Nevada and Utah each have 4 species, New Mexico has 6 species and Texas has 9 species. Data approximate, subject to revision.
3 sub-species in Vicia americana:
Vicia americana subsp. americana, American Vetch;
Vicia americana subsp. mexicana,
Vicia americana subsp. minor, Mat Vetch.
Comments: American Deervetch is an excellent forage crop for wildlife and livestock and provides forage for game birds and small mammals. Because of its long taproot it has a strong tolerance to drought conditions. American Deervetch may be confused with the similar genus Lathyrus, technical differences separate the two species.
Importance to Wildlife, Birds and Livestock
American Deervetch, Vicia americana has attractive flowers, the flowers and their seeds may be visited by hummingbirds and/or small mammals including rodents and granivorous birds in search of nectar or food.
U.S.D.A., U.S. Forest Service; Fire Effects Information System (FEIS)
The U.S.D.A., U.S. Forest Service; Fire Effects Information System (FEIS) has published a comprehensive review regarding the natural history and ecology in the United States, of American Deervetch, Vicia americana. The information is available on-line here. According to this information American Deervetch provides excellent forage for both wildlife including elk and mule deer and livestock. American Deervetch also provides forage for game birds and small mammals.
Beneficial Value to Butterflies, Honey Bees and Insects
American Deervetch, Vicia americana has attractive flowers, the flowers and their plants may be visited by butterflies, moths, flies, honeybees, and other insects in search of food and nectar.
****Special Value to Native Bees****
According to The Xerces Society for Invertebrate Conservation, American Deervetch, Vicia americana, is recognized by pollination ecologists as attracting large numbers of Native bees. Click here for more information on their Pollinator Conservation Program.
According to the Encyclopedia of Life and Butterflies and Moths of North America, The genus Vicia, and Deervetch are used by a multitude of butterflies and moths including those listed below;
Eastern tailed-blue, Everes comyntas (Pea family host)
Queen Alexandra's Sulphur, Colias alexandra
Labrador Sulphur, Colias nastes
Western Sulphur Colias occidentalis
Common sulphur, Colias philodice
Western Tailed-Blue, Cupido amyntula
Eastern Tailed-Blue, Cupido comyntas
Funereal Duskywing, Erynnis funeralis
Grey Partridge, Perdix perdix
American Lady, Vanessa virginiensis
Arogos Skipper, Atrytone arogos
Swarthy Skipper, Nastra lherminier
Ottoe Skipper, Hesperia ottoe
Find out more from Butterflies and Moths of North America,(BAMONA) and from Encyclopedia of Life, (EOL).
The genus “Vicia” means means 'binder' in Latin; this was the name used by Pliny for vetch. The vetch is also referenced by Horace in his account of 'The town mouse and country mouse' as ervum. This is said to be a source of comfort for the country mouse after a disturbing insight into urban life.