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Purple Milk-Vetch

This creeping perennial is commonly seen in sand dunes or coastal turf in the South East, Moray Firth area, Western Isles and Galloway, but it also grows in the lime-rich inland grasslands of Eastern Scotland. Occasionally it can be found enjoying a chalky hillside.

It has softly hairy leaves which are pinnate, with 6 to 13 pairs of narrow smooth-edged leaflets. These end in a single leaflet, and not the tendril common to other species of vetch. The complete leaf is anything from 3 to 7cm long.

The blue-purple flowers are about 1.5cm long and grow together in tightly clustered racemes at the end of the stem. The flowers follow the usual pattern of pea-flowers, having one large petal at the top, two side petals like wings and a pair of fused petals at the base of the flower forming a ‘keel’ shape.

Like other members of the pea family, Purple Milk Vetch is a great nectar source for honey bees. Unfortunately it has been classed as Endangered on the Red List, having suffered the effects of chemical fertilisers throughout the 20th Century.

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