Phylum: Magnoliophyta - Class: Equisetopsida - Order: Fabales - Family: Fabaceae
This generally low-growing member of the pea family (fabaceae, formerly referred to as the legiminosae) has unusual flower heads; they are in two parts. One side will be coming into bloom while the other has semi-ripened seeds.
Occasionally reaching a height of 25cm but more often nearly prostrate and no more than 15cm tall, Kidney Vetch usually has branching ascending stems topped by a distinctive loose clover-like inflorescence. In the wild, the petals of Kidney Vetch usually range from yellow through to orange; they are pink in the case of Anthyllis vulneraria var. coccinea. Cultivars have been produced which have deep red flowers.
The leaves have a few scattered hairs on their upper surfaces and silky hairs on the underside.
Anthyllis vulneraria is common and widespread in Britain and Ireland; it occurs also throughout mainland Europe. Kidney Vetch is a particularly common plant in the Mediterranean region, where the pink-flowered form is more often seen. Plants seen in Slovenia are generally a paler, lemon yellow than the ones we see in Britain.
Kidney Vetch copes well with dry conditions and is commonly seen on the edges of sandy coastal footpaths as well as in sand-dune systems. Dry grassland and calcareous rocky areas, including roadside verges where lime chippings have been spread, are also favoured by this drought-tolerant plant.
In Northern Europe, Kidney Vetch blooms between April and September. Further south in the Mediterranean region the flowers appear much earlier in the year, but they are usually over by the end of May.
Anthyllis, the genus name, comes from the Greek words anthos- meaning flower, and -ioulos meaning downy (as are the undersides of leaves).
The specific epithet vulneraria means 'healer of wounds' - a reflection of past medicinal uses of this plant.
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