Vicia bithynica

Tracheophyta MagnoliopsidaFabaceaeViciaVicia bithynica


A scrambling annual found in rough grassland on coastal undercliffs, and inland in open hedges, scrubby grassland and on railway banks. At many inland sites it was probably introduced as a contaminant of legume crops, but can be persistent along hedges and tracksides. Lowland.



World Distribution

Mediterranean-Atlantic element.

© K.J. Walker, BSBI

Broad Habitats

Boundary and linear features (eg hedges, roadsides, walls)

Light (Ellenberg): 7

Moisture (Ellenberg): 4

Reaction (Ellenberg): 6

Nitrogen (Ellenberg): 4

Salt Tolerance (Ellenberg): 0

January Mean Temperature (Celsius): 4.4

July Mean Temperature (Celsius): 16.1

Annual Precipitation (mm): 827

Height (cm): 60

Perennation - primary


Life Form - primary




Clonality - primary

Little or no vegetative spread

Count of 10km squares in Great Britain: 74

Count of 10km squares in Ireland: 0

Count of 10km squares in the Channel Isles: 4

Atlas Change Index: -0.52

JNCC Designations


Scarce Atlas Account

Scarce Atlas Account: 

Vicia bithynica (L.) L.

Bithynian vetch

Status: scarce


This is a mainly coastal species usually growing on clays and found on undercliffs, the backs of beaches and bare ground. It is often associated with other uncommon legumes, notably Lathyrus aphaca, L. nissolia, L. sylvestris and Vicia lutea. It is rare inland, where it tends to be a climber in hedges and bushes. Occasionally it occurs on the bare ground of old railway lines. 

It is an annual, although sometimes erroneously described as a perennial, usually germinating in early spring and flowering in autumn (White 1912). The seed germinates well: in garden tests 11 seedlings germinated, albeit erratically, from 14 seeds sown. Some seedlings appeared two or even three years afterwards.

This species is apparently becoming rarer. It has certainly disappeared from many coastal sites in the north and east of its range for reasons that are not obvious. In its undercliff habitats in Dorset, it appears to be thriving and abundant.

Abroad it occurs from western Europe to north-western Africa, and east through the Mediterranean to Cyprus, Syria, Turkey and the Crimea.

It is difficult to distinguish localities where this species is native from those where it is a long-established alien. It is probably not native in Cornwall, for example, though it has persisted in one site on the Lizard Peninsula for over 90 years.


D. A. Pearman

Atlas text references

Atlas (116b)
de Bolòs O, Vigo J
1984.  Flora dels Països Catalans, I. Introducció. Licopodiàcies-Capparàcies.
Stewart A, Pearman DA, Preston CD
1994.  Scarce plants in Britain.