Definitions

Vetch

Vetch

[vech]
Vetch, Samuel, 1668-1732, British soldier and colonial administrator, b. Scotland. He settled in Albany, N.Y., in 1699 and became a trader with the Native Americans. Author of a plan to capture French Canada, he was empowered (1709) by the British government to raise troops for the attack. He was adjutant general of the expedition that captured (1710) Port Royal (now Annapolis Royal, N. S.) and became military governor (1710-13) and civil governor (1715-17) of the conquered territory.
vetch, common name for many weak-stemmed, leguminous herbs of the genus Vicia of the family Leguminosae (pulse family). The vetches are chiefly annuals, distributed over temperate regions of the Northern Hemisphere and of South America. Most of the species cultivated for food and forage are Old World in origin. The common vetch (V. sativa), also called spring vetch, is a purple- or pink-flowered climber native to Europe, where it is grown for fodder. It is extensively grown on the Pacific coast and in other sections of the United States for green fodder and hay and as a cover and green-manure crop. The hairy vetch (V. villosa), used almost as widely, is a hardy biennial with narrower, silvery leaves and blue flowers. Valued as an enricher of the nitrogen content of soil, it grows almost anywhere in the United States and is considered the best legume to plant where red clover does not thrive. It is also known as sand, Siberian, Russian, and winter vetch. Vetch seed is often inoculated with nitrogen-fixing bacteria when grown in soil of low fertility. In areas of grain cultivation vetches sometimes escape into grainfields and become weedy pests. In Europe the principal cultivated species of Vicia is the broad bean (V. faba), the only edible bean native to the Old World. Tare is a common name sometimes used as a synonym for any vetch, most frequently for the common vetch. Vetches are classified in the division Magnoliophyta, class Magnoliopsida, order Rosales, family Leguminosae.

See bulletins of the U.S. Dept. of Agriculture.

Vetch (Vicia cracca)

Any of about 150 species of herbaceous plants in the genus Vicia of the pea family (see legume). A few species are cultivated as important fodder and cover crops and as green manure. Trailing or climbing stems grow 1–4 ft (0.3–1.2 m) tall, bearing compound leaves with several pairs of leaflets. Magenta, bluish-white, white, or yellow flowers are borne singly or in clusters. The pods contain 2–10 seeds. Like other legumes, vetches add nitrogen to the soil through nitrogen fixation. Seealso crown vetch.

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Vigorous trailing legume (Coronilla varia), native to the Mediterranean but widely grown in temperate areas as a ground cover. It has fernlike leaves and clusters of white to pink flowers. The sturdy roots are useful in binding the soil of steep slopes and roadside embankments. As a legume, crown vetch draws nitrogen from the air, trapping it in the roots, and thus improves soil fertility. It dies back to the crown each fall in cold areas, resuming growth in spring. Cutting the plant back in the fall or early spring encourages quick growth.

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