Very similar to Common Vetch (Vicia sativa), but with smaller flowers, this delicate, slender stemmed annual twists its tendrils through the grasslands, sand dunes and dry grassy banks of the East and Southwest coasts of Scotland. Being small it is hard to spot. Not to be confused with Lathyrus vernus – also known in some circles as Spring Vetch, but in fact a perennial Vetchling.
Its leaves have 2 to 4 pairs of narrow oval leaflets, the leaflets having blunt almost heart-shaped ends, and end in a single tendril, though sometimes this is absent. Leaves are glabrous, though sometimes develop short hairs.
As with Common Vetch, the flowers grow singly at the leaf base, not the ends of the stem. They are purple pea flowers, having 5 petals – one large petal at the top, two wings, and two fused petals at the base forming the ‘keel’. Flowers are stalk-less, about 6mm long, and develop into a hairless seed pod, about 2cm in length.