crown vetch

(Securigera varia)

Conservation Status
crown vetch
  IUCN Red List

not listed


NNA - Not applicable

SNA - Not applicable


not listed

Weed Status

Restricted Noxious Weed

Crown vetch is listed as an invasive terrestrial plant by the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources.


Crown vetch is a perennial forb that rises from a woody base (caudex), a taproot, and underground stems (rhizomes). The taproot is deep and multiply branched. The rhizomes are fleshy, branched, and up to 10 long or longer. In their vegetative state plants are usually no more than 12 tall. When in flower they may be up to 36 tall. They often form dense tangled mats or mounds, and often large dense colonies that crowd out native plants and limit the establishment of shrubs and trees.

The stems are spreading to ascending, 12 to 48 long, and branched. They are angled or ridged and hairless or sparsely covered with spreading hairs. They do not have thorns.

The leaves are alternate, 2 to 6 long, and stalkless or almost stalkless. They are pinnately divided into 9 to 25 leaflets—4 to 12 pairs of lateral leaflets and a terminal leaflet. They do not have tendrils. At the base of each compound leaf there is a pair of small, leaf-like appendages (stipules). The stipules are green, narrowly lance-shaped to narrowly oblong or oblong triangular, and 1 32 to long, much smaller than the leaves. They are always completely free of each other, not joined. Older stipules have a dark tip caused by an aggregation of tannin cells.

The leaflets are oblong to inversely lance-shaped, ¼ to 1 long, and to wide. They are rounded or angled at the base rounded, bluntly pointed, or squared off at the tip, with a minute, sharp point at the tip. The upper surface is green and hairless and usually has dark purple dots (glands) that are visible only with magnification. The lower surface is hairless purplish tinged or mottled. The margins are untoothed.

The inflorescence is a spreading, crown-shaped, umbrella-like cluster (umbel) of 5 to 20, usually 10 to 15, flowers rising from upper leaf axils. The stalk of the umbel is 2 to 6 long and angled. Each flower is on a to ¼ long stalk (pedicel). Each pedicel is subtended by a single 1 64to 1 32 long modified leaf (bract). The bracts are free, not joined, and have dark tips.

The individual flowers are to ½ long. There are 5 sepals, 5 petals, 10 stamens, and 1 style. The sepals are green and are fused for most of their length into a 132 to 1 16long long, hairless, bell-shaped calyx tube. The 5 petals form a butterfly-like corolla typical of plants in the Pea family. Each of the petals is abruptly narrowed (clawed) at the base. They are organized into a broad banner petal at the top, two lateral wing petals, and between the wings two petals fused into a keel. The banner is pink or purplish-pink and sometimes has a darker raised ridge in the center. It is abruptly arched upright from below the middle. The expanded portion is broadly egg-shaped, ⅜″ to ½ long, and 3 16to 5 16 wide. The wings are to long and to 3 16 wide. They are also pink but are noticeably paler than the banner, sometimes nearly white. The keel is purple, boat shaped, to ½ long, and 1 16 to wide. Nine of the filaments are long and their filaments are fused. The remaining filament is shorter and is free. The anthers are yellow. The style is slender, 3 16 to ¼ long, and curved upwards.

The fruit is a bluntly 4-angled, ¾ to 2 long seedpod containing 3 to 12 seeds. It is green at first, becoming straw-colored or tan, then eventually brown when ripe. It is not flattened and is only slightly constricted between the seeds. When it ripens it breaks into one-seeded segments.




Spreading; 12 to 24 tall


Flower Color




Similar Species


When in flower there is no similar species. In its vegetative state it appears similar to species in the Vicia and Lathyrus genera. Securigera is distinguished by the absence of tendrils; a terminal leaflet; an umbrella-like inflorescence; and fruits that break into one-seeded segments at maturity. Crown vetch is the only species of Securigera that is found in Minnesota.


Moist to moderate moisture. Highway embankments, roadsides, railroads, drainage ditches, meadows, savannas, pastures, old fields, and other disturbed sites. Full or partial sun.




May to September


Pests and Diseases




Crown vetch has been planted extensively since the 1950s on highway embankments in the upper two thirds of the United States to prevent erosion. The practice is now discouraged because its dense colonies often hide rather then prevent soil erosion. It has been used since the 1970s to revegetate abandoned mining sites. It has been and still is planted in gardens as an ornamental. It readily escapes cultivation. Once established, it takes a combination of methods and several years to eradicate.


Distribution Map



2, 3, 4, 5, 7, 22, 24, 29, 30.




Native to Western Asia and Europe. Introduced in North America in 1869 or earlier and naturalized.




Widespread; common in the Midwest, including Minnesota.

  Kingdom Plantae (green algae and land plants)  
  Subkingdom Viridiplantae (green plants)  
  Infrakingdom Streptophyta (land plants and green algae)  
  Superdivision Embryophyta (land plants)  
  Division Tracheophyta (vascular plants)  
  Subdivision Spermatophytina (seed plants)  
  Class Magnoliopsida (flowering plants)  
  Superorder Rosanae  


Fabales (legumes, milkworts, and allies)  


Fabaceae (legumes)  
  Subfamily Faboideae  
  Tribe Loteae  
  Genus Securigera  

The genus Securigera was split off from the genus Coronilla in 1989 (Lassen) based on morphological characteristics. Preliminary DNA analysis done in 2000 and 2003 support the segregation.



  Coronilla varia  

Common Names



crown vetch


purple crown-vetch

purple crownvetch

trailing crown-vetch

Varia crownvetch












The upper angle where a branch, stem, leaf stalk, or vein diverges.



Modified leaf at the base of a flower stalk, flower cluster, or inflorescence.



The group of outer floral leaves (sepals) below the petals, occasionally forming a tube.



A short, thickened, woody, persistent enlargement of the stem, at or below ground level, used for water storage.



A stalk-like narrowed base of some petals and sepals.



On plants: The thread-like stalk of a stamen which supports the anther. On Lepidoptera: One of a pair of long, thin, fleshy extensions extending from the thorax, and sometimes also from the abdomen, of a caterpillar.



On a compound leaf, having the leaflets arranged on opposite sides of a common stalk. On a bryophyte, having branches evenly arranged on opposite sides of a stem.



A horizontal, usually underground stem. It serves as a reproductive structure, producing roots below and shoots above at the nodes.



A small, leaf-like, scale-like, glandular, or rarely spiny appendage found at the base of a leaf stalk, usually occurring in pairs and usually dropping soon.



A flat-topped or convex, umbrella-shaped cluster of flowers or buds arising from more or less a single point.


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Robert Briggs


Crown Vetch at Spring Lake Park Reserve. Unfortunately, it's becoming more and more prevalent in the unmowed areas.

  crown vetch  

Wayne Rasmussen

    crown vetch      


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    crown vetch   crown vetch  






Visitor Videos

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Other Videos
  Environmental Laboratory - U.S. Army Corps of Engineers

Published on Feb 15, 2013

Coronilla varia - Crownvetch

  Cieciorka pstra

Published on Jun 18, 2012

Cieciorka pstra

Cieciorka pstra (Coronilla varia L.) -- gatunek rośliny z rodziny bobowatych (Fabaceae). Według nowszych ujęć taksonomicznych gatunek ten włączony został do rodzaju Securigera i ma nazwę Securigera varia L.(Lassen) Svensk Bot. Tidskr. 83:86. 1989. Pochodzi z Azji i Europy, ale rozprzestrzenił się także w Nowej Zelandii i Północnej Ameryce. Jest również uprawiany w wielu krajach świata. W Polsce na stanowiskach naturalnych jest dość pospolity.


Roślina wieloletnia o pokładających się i rozgałęzionych pędach osiągających długość od 30 do 100 cm. Pod ziemią wytwarza długie, rozgałęzione, cienkie i mocne kłącze.

Nieparzystopierzaste , złożone z 5-10 par jajowatych listków o zaostrzonych końcach oraz niewielkich, wolnych przylistków.

Motylkowe, o barwie białoróżowej bądź białobladolila zebrane w pięknie prezentujące się kwiatostany typu pozornej główki, a wyrastające z kątów liści. W kwiatostanie 10-20 kwiatów. Różowa korona o długości 10-15 mm, białych skrzydełkach i ciemnoróżowym końcu łódeczki.

4-kanciasty, wzniesiony i tępo zakończony strąk, zawierający w środku małe, twarde, czerwonobrunatne nasiona.

Biologia i ekologia
Bylina, hemikryptofit. Kwitnie od maja do lipca. Najłatwiej spotkać ją można na przydrożach, miedzach, słonecznych stokach wzgórz i suchych łąkach. W górach występuje po regiel górny. W klasyfikacji zbiorowisk roślinnych gatunek charakterystyczny dla Cl. Trifolio-Geranietea. Roślina trująca: Ponieważ cieciorka jest rośliną toksyczną, nie wolno się nią leczyć bez wiedzy i zgody lekarza.

Roślina lecznicza: Dawniej była używana w celach leczniczych, obecnie zaprzestano jej stosowania ze względu na trujące własności.

Surowiec zielarski : Ziele (Herba coronillae)zawierające glikozyd koronilinę, garbniki, gorycze, sole mineralne.

Działanie: Napar z ziela cieciorki może być stosowany jako lek pomocniczy w kuracji nerwicy serca, bo posiada zarówno działanie uspokajające, jak i regulujące rytm serca. Napar ten działa ponadto łagodnie moczopędnie.

Roślina ozdobna czasami uprawiana ze względu na swoje ładne kwiaty. Nie nadaje się do ogrodu, gdyż jest ekspansywna i swoimi cienkimi kłączami szybko się rozrasta. Może być jednak używana jako roślina okrywowa na skarpach, gdyż dobrze umacnia strome brzegi.

  Crown Vetch Control Using Foam Herbicide for Precision Applications
Green Shoots

Published on Jan 24, 2014

How to kill crown vetch (Coronilla varia or Securigera varia) without killing your nearby desirable plants? How to control crown vetch so it doesn't resprout? For this tough job, use the revolutionary foam herbicide system from Green Shoots: The Green Shoots foam herbicide system has several advantages over conventional spray systems. First, it is highly precise and selective. The foam can be discharged very slowly and placed on the target location. Second, once placed on the target, the foam herbicide sticks to the foliage and tissue of the plant. It doesn't drip like drops from a conventional spray system. Third, the foam herbicide dries slowly. This increases translocation of the herbicide so that the roots can be killed. Fourth, the foam herbicide is highly concentrated. This ensures that the mixture is sufficiently powerful to do the job. As explained in the video, using the foam herbicide system is easy. The herbicide can be placed directly on foliage – either the green leaves or green stems. Alternatively, if you want to remove the target weed immediately, you can cut it and apply the foam herbicide to the remaining stump. If you do a stump application, be sure to apply the foam herbicide immediately after cutting. Perennial weeds like crown vetch have extremely extensive root systems, so be sure to apply the foam herbicide to each stem that you can find.

For more tips on dealing with invasive plants, visit Green Shoots News at:

  Garden Design & Care : Growing Crown Vetch

Uploaded on Apr 4, 2009

Growing crown vetch is easily done, as it is part of the legume family that grows heartily with thick roots. See how crown vetch has been used for erosion control with helpful advice from a sustainable gardener in this free video on gardens.

Expert: Yolanda Vanveen
Bio: Yolanda Vanveen is a third-generation flower grower and sustainable gardener who lives in Kalama, Wash.
Filmmaker: Daron Stetner




Visitor Sightings

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  Robert Briggs

Location: Spring Lake Park Reserve

Crown Vetch at Spring Lake Park Reserve. Unfortunately, it's becoming more and more prevalent in the unmowed areas.

crown vetch  
  Wayne Rasmussen

Location: Joy Park & Preserve in Maplewood, MN

crown vetch  




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