Crownvetch (Coronilla varia
or Securigera varia
) is a vigorous deciduous groundcover which is from the Fabaceae or pea family. It is native to Europe, Asia and Africa. It was widely cultivated in the 1950’s throughout the United States and Canada for erosion control, roadside planting and soil rehabilitation. This is because it rapidly becomes established and has deep taproots and sprawling vegetative coverage. However, it has since become an invasive weed in most parts of the United States due to its aggressive nature and is now considered to be a significant threat to native plants, similar to Kudzu.
- Flowers: It has small clusters of ½-inch mauve to lavender-pink-white inflorescence flowers which grow from early summer to late fall. It resembles the flowers seen in clover.
- Leaves: Dark green, alternate leaves which are pinnately compound and fine-textured. There are 11-25 small leaflets per leaf.
- Fruit/Seeds: The four-angled legume is from 1.5-5.5 cm long. It has from three to seven one-seeded segments.
- Height: Crown vetch has a creeping stem reaching 3 to 5 cm in length.
The toxic constituent of crownvetch is nitrotoxin, β-nitropropionic acid, a potent neurotoxin. Ingestion of any parts of the plant are toxic to birds. If diagnosed early enough and the bird is provided prompt treatment wit activated charcoal, and supportive care, they may survive.