Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Crown Vetch (Toxic)

Crown Vetch (Securigera Varia) is a plant that is native to parts of Africa, Asia, and Europe, and has been brought to North America. It's often planted along road ways, and used for erosion control, as well as in soil rehabilitation due to it's ability to add nitrogen into the soil.

The plant doesn't usually get much taller than two feet in a flat area, but will 'crawl' up posts, fences, etc. to some extent. It's flowers range from white to light pink, to a somewhat lavender shade. In southern NH, it's usually in bloom from June through September.

Crown Vetch Flower
Since Crown Vetch is an aggressive spreader, it's not a very good plant for gardens. It will do well left alone in fields or on roadsides, but it does spread very quickly, and can take over and kill off other plants in the area. In fact, it is considered an invasive species in many areas, and should not be planted without proper control.

Crown Vetch is a toxic plant. It's safe to touch, and has a pleasant smell, but the plant and seeds are poisonous if eaten. Crown Vetch can cause vomiting and diarrhea, as well as cause the pulse to drop, and may even cause death if enough is ingested. Despite being toxic, it is being researched for use in the treatment of some heart disorders (much like Foxglove). In addition to being toxic to humans, it is also toxic to horses. Some animals, like deer, can and do eat Crown Vetch.

Beginner foragers sometimes mistake Crown Vetch for Red Clover. Since Clover is edible (and is actually quite tasty), this can be a very bad mix up. Always check and double check when out foraging, and pay attention to the details of the plant. A mix up between these two plants should be easy to avoid with a little care.

Crown Vetch plants often grow in dense clusters, with tangled root systems. As such, it's ritual uses include binding, or slowing something down. It can also be used in matters of protection for the same reasons. Since Crown Vetch is an aggressive climber and spreader, it can also be used in matters of overcoming obstacles and troubles.

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