This perennial plant grows on sunny, chalky, lime-rich banks near the sea and up mountain sides. It can be found in scattered places around the whole of Scotland.
Its leaves grow to about 14cm long, some stalk-less with narrow leaflets and stipules emerging from the stem, others pinnate with 3 to 7 pairs of narrow oval leaflets ending in a single broader leaflet. Like Purple Milk Vetch, this is another vetch with no tendrils. Soft short hairs on the underside make the leaves feel silky to the touch.
This variety has more elongated flower heads than other Vetch. The flower heads are rounded up to 4cm in diameter, and made up of tightly packed pea-flowers. These are yellow, sometimes with a reddish tinge. Often the flower heads are half in flower and half fruiting at the same time. The 5 sepals are woolly, and whitish-pale with purple tips. These remain during fruiting, and in their woolly embrace a small almost globular seed pod appears.
Kidney Vetch’s Latin name vulneraria means ‘wound healer’, and this plant was used as an infusion to treat wounds in ancient times.