Coronilla varia (purple crownvetch, purple vetch, crownvetch)

description:  perennial herb

place of origin:  Europe, southwest Asia, northern Africa

urban habitat: commonly found along roadsides, railroad tracks, streams, in open fields, rocky dry sites, waste areas, abandoned building sites, utility areas; drought and tolerant, tolerant of road salt and compacted soils; thrives in full sunlight but can tolerate partial shading; its spreading habit inhibits growth of neighboring plants by shading them.

ecological function: disturbance-adapted colonizer; nectar and pollen for honeybees, food for livestock, food and habitat for wildlife; has nitrogen-fixing abilities.

history: Currently found throughout the US and southern Canada and Hawaii, Coronilla vetch was first documented as being present in North America in 1869 in New York and by 1872, it was reported to be fully naturalized in this area. C. vetch was planted extensively in the US in the 1950’s for erosion control and for revegetation of former mining sites and other disturbed landscapes. It has also been used as an ornamental, a cover crop and as a green fertilizer. All parts of the plant are toxic to humans and some mammals due to cardiac alkaloid Cornoillin, and can cause slow growth, paralysis and death if consumed in large quantities. It has been used fresh or dried as a heart tonic, as a salve for rheumatic joints and cramps, and to induce vomiting. The plant was used for these purposes by the Native American Cherokee tribe. It has also been used as an insecticide.