Kidney vetch Anthyllis vulneraria

“A wealth of heather, kidney-vetch and squillsOver these long-defended Cornish hills.”- John Betjeman, ‘Cornish Cliffs’


Kidney vetch’s clusters of small yellow flowers on little woolly bases, rapidly colonise bare ground on sand dunes, chalk grassland and cliffs, wherever they get the opportunity.

How to spot it

Its clusters of yellow pea-like flowers grow on low spreading clumps. The leaves are divided into narrow leaflets that are silky and white underneath. Each flower has a hairy calyx, giving the flower heads a woolly appearance.

Where it grows

Kidney vetch can be found on grassland, waysides and bare, stony ground as well as in coastal sand dune systems.

Best time to see

In flower May to September

How's it doing?

Common and widespread in Britain and Ireland, it is increasingly being found on roadsides.

3 things you might not know

  • vulneraria’ in its Latin name means 'healer of wounds' - a reflection of its past medicinal use. 
  • It is the sole food of the smallest British butterfly, the Small Blue.
  • In some countries it is cultivated as fodder for sheep and goats.