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SPECIES:  Vicia americana
American vetch with ponderosa pine litter. Photo taken in Modoc County, CA, by Br. Alfred Brousseau, Saint Mary's College.


SPECIES: Vicia americana
AUTHORSHIP AND CITATION : Coladonato, Milo. 1993. Vicia americana. In: Fire Effects Information System, [Online]. U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Rocky Mountain Research Station, Fire Sciences Laboratory (Producer). Available: [].
ABBREVIATION : VICAME SYNONYMS : NO-ENTRY SCS PLANT CODE : VIAM COMMON NAMES : American vetch wild vetch stiffleaf vetch wild pea TAXONOMY : The scientific name for American vetch is Vicia americana Muhl. ex Willd. [15]. Recognized varieties based on morphological difference are as follows [16,32]: Vicia americana var. americana Vicia americana var. minor Hook., mat vetch LIFE FORM : Forb FEDERAL LEGAL STATUS : No special status OTHER STATUS : NO-ENTRY


SPECIES: Vicia americana
GENERAL DISTRIBUTION : American vetch is widely distributed across North America. It occurs from central Alaska east across Canada to southern Ontario, south to southern Virginia, and west across the Great Plains to California, Oregon, and Washington [32,36] ECOSYSTEMS : FRES10 White - red - jack pine FRES11 Spruce - fir FRES14 Oak - pine FRES15 Oak - hickory FRES17 Elm - ash - cottonwood FRES18 Maple - beech - birch FRES19 Aspen - birch FRES20 Douglas-fir FRES21 Ponderosa pine FRES22 Western white pine FRES23 Fir - spruce FRES26 Lodgepole pine FRES28 Western hardwoods FRES29 Sagebrush FRES34 Chaparral - mountain shrub FRES35 Pinyon - juniper FRES36 Mountain grasslands FRES37 Mountain meadows FRES38 Plains grasslands FRES39 Prairie FRES44 Alpine STATES : AK AZ CA CO CT DE ID IL IN IA KS KY ME MD MA MI MN MO MT NE NV NH NJ NM NY ND OH OR PA RI SD UT VT VA WA WV WI WY AB BC MB NF SK BLM PHYSIOGRAPHIC REGIONS : 1 Northern Pacific Border 2 Cascade Mountains 3 Southern Pacific Border 4 Sierra Mountains 5 Columbia Plateau 6 Upper Basin and Range 7 Lower Basin and Range 8 Northern Rocky Mountains 9 Middle Rocky Mountains 10 Wyoming Basin 11 Southern Rocky Mountains 12 Colorado Plateau 13 Rocky Mountain Piedmont 14 Great Plains 15 Black Hills Uplift 16 Upper Missouri Basin and Broken Lands KUCHLER PLANT ASSOCIATIONS : American vetch occurs in most Kuchler Plant Associations. SAF COVER TYPES : American vetch occurs in most SAF Cover Types. SRM (RANGELAND) COVER TYPES : American vetch occurs in most SRM Cover Types. HABITAT TYPES AND PLANT COMMUNITIES : American vetch is a common understory forb in quaking aspen (Populus tremuloides) communities in northern Minnesota and northern Michigan [3]. Some common forb associates of American vetch include western yarrow (Achillea millefolium), alpine aster (Aster foliaceus), showy aster (A. conspicuus), Virginia strawberry (Fragaria virginiana), wildwhite geranium (Geranium richardsonii), sticky geranium (G. viscosissimum), Canada violet (Viola canadensis), western sagebrush (Artemisia campestris), goldenrod (Solidago spp.), western snowberry (Symphoricarpos occidentalis), and sedges (Carex spp.) [23,25,29].


SPECIES: Vicia americana
IMPORTANCE TO LIVESTOCK AND WILDLIFE : American vetch provides excellent forage for livestock and wildlife. Mule deer, black bear, and grizzly bear browse the leaves and flowers. American vetch also provides forage for game birds and small mammals [7,18,19,21]. PALATABILITY : Palatability ratings for American vetch are as follows [12]: UT CO WY MT ND Cattle fair good good good good Domestic sheep good good good good good Horses fair good good good good Elk good ---- good fair ---- Mule deer good ---- fair good ---- White-tailed deer fair ---- ---- ---- ---- Pronghorn poor ---- good good ---- Small mammals good ---- good ---- ---- Small nongame birds good ---- fair ---- ---- Upland game birds good ---- good ---- fair Waterfowl poor ---- poor ---- poor NUTRITIONAL VALUE : American vetch is rated poor in protein and energy value [12]. COVER VALUE : Cover values for American vetch are as follows [12]: UT WY MT ND Elk poor poor ---- ---- Mule deer poor poor ---- ---- White-tailed deer ---- poor poor ---- Pronghorn poor poor ---- ---- Upland game birds fair fair ---- fair Waterfowl poor poor ---- ---- Small nongame birds fair good ---- ---- Small mammals fair good ---- ---- VALUE FOR REHABILITATION OF DISTURBED SITES : American vetch is a nitrogen fixer. It may be useful revegetating open or depleted quaking aspen game rangelands in Utah including burned over or thinned conifer areas. It is also useful for revegetating coal-mined lands, roadsides, and in critical-site stabilization and beautification [30,35]. American vetch has been successfully planted in disturbed alpine rangelands in the western United States [10]. OTHER USES AND VALUES : NO-ENTRY OTHER MANAGEMENT CONSIDERATIONS : NO-ENTRY


SPECIES: Vicia americana
GENERAL BOTANICAL CHARACTERISTICS : American vetch is a native rhizomatous, single-stemmed ascending or climbing perennial forb up to 30 inches (75 cm) tall [35]. The inflorescence is a raceme with up to 10 flowers that are 0.5 to 1.5 inches (1.25-3.75 cm) long, each producing a pod 1 to 1.5 inches (2.5-3.75 cm) long and containing two to several pealike seeds [32,35,36]. American vetch has a moderate to deeply branched taproot which reaches a maximum depth of about 40 inches (100 cm) [37]. It has strong drought tolerance [35].
American vetch on the Santa Rosa Plateau Ecological Reserve, CA. Tendrils at the ends of leaflets aid in securing the plant to climbing structures. Photo ©2016 Keri Morse.


American vetch reproduces from seed and creeping rhizomes [1]. 

American vetch grows in a wide variety of habitats.  It is found in
moist to dry areas, swampy woods and borders, mixed forests, and
clearings.  It is common in moist or sheltered foothill canyons and
meadows [8,34,36].  It grows on sandy, clayey, medium-textured soils.
In western mountains it is usually more abundant in deep porous loams
that are rich in organic matter.  Soils vary from acidic to moderately
basic and are sometimes moderately saline [35].

American vetch occurs in all stages of succession.  It grows in open
sunny sites and invades fire-disturbed areas [17].  It is also shade
tolerant.  It is found in the understories of quaking aspen communities
of the upper Great Lakes region [3] and in Engelmann spruce (Picea
engelmannii) communities of the Rocky Mountains [4].


American vetch new growth begins in early spring to early summer,
varying with environment.  It flowers from May to August and the seeds
mature about 1 month after flowering [11,35].


SPECIES: Vicia americana
FIRE ECOLOGY OR ADAPTATIONS : American vetch is rated as moderately resistant to fire [22]. It typically increases following fire [24]. The fibrous roots and rhizomes are 0.6 (1.5 cm) to 2 inches (5 cm) below the soil surface and sprout following light- to moderate-severity fires [22]. American vetch also revegetates burned sites via soil-stored seed [1,2] FIRE REGIMES : Find fire regime information for the plant communities in which this species may occur by entering the species name in the FEIS home page under "Find Fire Regimes". POSTFIRE REGENERATION STRATEGY : Rhizomatous herb, rhizome in soil Ground residual colonizer (on-site, initial community)


SPECIES: Vicia americana
IMMEDIATE FIRE EFFECT ON PLANT : Fire probably top-kills American vetch [27,39]. DISCUSSION AND QUALIFICATION OF FIRE EFFECT : NO-ENTRY PLANT RESPONSE TO FIRE : American vetch typically increases after low- to moderate-severity fires [5,6,38]. In a study of plant succession in the Gambel oak (Quercus gambelii) brush zone in Utah, American vetch showed a higher average number of plants on burned areas than on unburned areas, even after 9 years [22]. In northeastern North Dakota American vetch canopy cover was greater on some sites burned 1-3 years before the plant survey than on unburned sites [24]. In a Douglas-fir habitat type in Idaho, American vetch cover and frequency on sites burned by low-severity fires were greater than on unburned or severely burned sites. This effect was greatest in post-fire year 2 [6]. On a prescribed burn in northeastern Minnesota, the frequency of American vetch increased greatly on the burned areas during postfire year 1 [1]. DISCUSSION AND QUALIFICATION OF PLANT RESPONSE : The Research Project Summaries Understory recovery after burning and reburning quaking aspen stands in central Alberta and Understory recovery after low- and high-intensity fires in northern Idaho ponderosa pine forests provide information on prescribed fire use and postfire response of plant community species including American vetch. FIRE MANAGEMENT CONSIDERATIONS : NO ENTRY


SPECIES: Vicia americana
REFERENCES : 1. Ahlgren, Clifford E. 1966. Small mammals and reforestation following prescribed burning. Journal of Forestry. 64: 614-618. [206] 2. Ahlgren, Clifford E. 1979. Buried seed in the forest floor of the Boundary Waters Canoe Area. Minnesota Forestry Research Note No. 271. St. Paul, MN: University of Minnesota, College of Forestry. 4 p. [3459] 3. Alban, David H.; Perala, Donald A.; Jurgensen, Martin F.; [and others]. 1991. Aspen ecosystem properties in the Upper Great Lakes. Res. Pap. NC-300. St. Paul, MN: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, North Central Forest Experiment Station. 47 p. [18412] 4. Alexander, Billy G., Jr.; Fitzhugh, E. Lee; Ronco, Frank, Jr.; Ludwig, John A. 1987. A classification of forest habitat types of the northern portion of the Cibola National Forest, New Mexico. Gen. Tech. Rep. RM-143. Fort Collins, CO: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Rocky Mountain Forest and Range Experiment Station. 35 p. [4207] 5. Anderson, Murray L.; Bailey, Arthur W. 1979. Effect of fire on a Symphoricarpos occidentalis shrub community in central Alberta. Canadian Journal of Botany. 57: 2820-2823. [2867] 6. Armour, Charles D.; Bunting, Stephen C.; Neuenschwander, Leon F. 1984. Fire intensity effects on the understory in ponderosa pine forests. Journal of Range Management. 37(1): 44-48. [6618] 7. Austin, Dennis D.; Urness, Philip J. 1983. Summer use of bitterbrush rangelands by mule deer. In: Tiedemann, Arthur R.; Johnson, Kendall L., compilers. Proceedings-- research and management of bitterbrush and cliffrose in western North America; 1982 April 13-15; Salt Lake City, UT. Gen. Tech. Rep. INT-152. Ogden, UT: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Intermountain Forest and Range Experiment Station: 203-212. [363] 8. Barneby, Rupert C. 1989. Intermountain flora: Vascular plants of the Intermountain West, U.S.A. Vol. 3, Part B: Fabales. Bronx, NY: The New York Botanical Garden. 279 p. [18596] 9. Bernard, Stephen R.; Brown, Kenneth F. 1977. Distribution of mammals, reptiles, and amphibians by BLM physiographic regions and A.W. Kuchler's associations for the eleven western states. Tech. Note 301. Denver, CO: U.S. Department of the Interior, Bureau of Land Management. 169 p. [434] 10. Brown, Ray W.; Johnston, Robert S. 1979. Revegetation of disturbed alpine rangelands. In: Johnson, D. A., ed. Special management needs of alpine ecosystems. Range Science Series No. 5. Denver, CO: Society for Range Management: 76-94. [188] 11. Callow, J. Michael; Kantrud, Harold A.; Higgins, Kenneth F. 1992. First flowering dates and flowering periods of prairie plants at Woodworth, North Dakota. Prairie Naturalist. 24(2): 57-64. [20450] 12. Dittberner, Phillip L.; Olson, Michael R. 1983. The plant information network (PIN) data base: Colorado, Montana, North Dakota, Utah, and Wyoming. FWS/OBS-83/86. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of the Interior, Fish and Wildlife Service. 786 p. [806] 13. Eyre, F. H., ed. 1980. Forest cover types of the United States and Canada. Washington, DC: Society of American Foresters. 148 p. [905] 14. Garrison, George A.; Bjugstad, Ardell J.; Duncan, Don A.; [and others]. 1977. Vegetation and environmental features of forest and range ecosystems. Agric. Handb. 475. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service. 68 p. [998] 15. Great Plains Flora Association. 1986. Flora of the Great Plains. Lawrence, KS: University Press of Kansas. 1392 p. [1603] 16. Gleason, Henry A.; Cronquist, Arthur. 1991. Manual of vascular plants of northeastern United States and adjacent Canada. 2nd ed. New York: New York Botanical Garden. 910 p. [20329] 17. Halpern, C. B. 1989. Early successional patterns of forest species: interactions of life history traits and disturbance. Ecology. 70(3): 704-720. [6829] 18. Hardy BBT Limited. 1989. Manual of plant species suitability for reclamation in Alberta. 2d ed. Report No. RRTAC 89-4. Edmonton, AB: Alberta Land Conservation and Reclamation Council. 436 p. [15460] 19. Kendall, Katherine C. 1986. Grizzly and black bear feeding ecology in Glacier National Park, Montana. Progress Report. West Glacier, Montana: U.S. Department of the Interior, National Park Service, Glacier National Park Biosphere Preserve, Science Center. 42 p. [19361] 20. Kuchler, A. W. 1964. Manual to accompany the map of potential vegetation of the conterminous United States. Special Publication No. 36. New York: American Geographical Society. 77 p. [1384] 21. Kufeld, Roland C. 1973. Foods eaten by the Rocky Mountain elk. Journal of Range Management. 26(2): 106-113. [1385] 22. McKell, Cyrus M. 1950. A study of plant succession in the oak brush (Quercus gambelii) zone after fire. Salt Lake City, UT: University of Utah. 79 p. Thesis. [1608] 23. Mueggler, W. F. 1985. Forage. In: DeByle, Norbert V.; Winokur, Robert P., eds. Aspen: ecology and management in the western United States. Gen. Tech. Rep. RM-119. Fort Collins, CO: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Rocky Mountain Forest and Range Experiment Station: 129-134. [11915] 24. Olson, Wendell W. 1975. Effects of controlled burning on grassland within the Tewaukon National Wildlife Refuge. Fargo, ND: North Dakota University of Agriculture and Applied Science. 137 p. Thesis. [15252] 25. Oswald, Brian P.; Covington, W. Wallace. 1984. Effect of a prescribed fire on herbage production in southwestern ponderosa pine on sedimentary soils. Forest Science. 30(1): 22-25. [2805] 26. Pelton, John. 1953. Studies on the life-history of Symphoricarpos occidentalis Hook, in Minnesota. Ecological Monographs. 23(1): 17-39. [11957] 27. Quintilo, D.; Alexander, M. E.; Ponto, R. L. 1991. Spring fires in a semimature trembling aspen stand in central Alberta. Information Report NOR-X-323. Edmonton, AB: Forestry Canada, Northwest Region, Northern Forestry Centre. 30 p. [19243] 28. Ferguson, Dennis E.; Boyd, Raymond J. 1988. Bracken fern inhibition of conifer regeneration in northern Idaho. Ogden, UT: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Intermountain Research Station. 11 p. [2834] 29. Redmann, Robert E.; Schwarz, Arthur G. 1986. Dry grassland plant communities in Wood Buffalo National Park, Alberta. Canadian Field-Naturalist. 100(4): 526-532. [4030] 30. Sieg, Carolyn Hull; Uresk, Daniel W.; Hansen, Richard M. 1983. Plant-soil relationships on bentonite mine spoils and sagebrush- grassland in the northern High Plains. Journal of Range Management. 36(3): 289-294. [4642] 31. Stickney, Peter F. 1989. Seral origin of species originating in northern Rocky Mountain forests. Unpublished draft on file at: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Intermountain Research Station, Fire Sciences Laboratory, Missoula, MT; RWU 4403 files. 7 p. [20090] 32. Stubbendiek, James; Conard, Elverne C. 1989. Common legumes of the Great Plains: an illustrated guide. Lincoln, NE: University of Nebraska Press. 330 p. [11049] 33. U.S. Department of Agriculture, Soil Conservation Service. 1982. National list of scientific plant names. Vol. 1. List of plant names. SCS-TP-159. Washington, DC. 416 p. [11573] 34. Voss, Edward G. 1985. Michigan flora. Part II. Dicots (Saururaceae--Cornaceae). Bull. 59. Bloomfield Hills, MI: Cranbrook Institute of Science; Ann Arbor, MI: University of Michigan Herbarium. 724 p. [11472] 35. Wasser, Clinton H. 1982. Ecology and culture of selected species useful in revegetating disturbed lands in the West. FWS/OBS-82/56. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of the Interior, Fish and Wildlife Service. 347 p. [4837] 36. Welsh, Stanley L.; Atwood, N. Duane; Goodrich, Sherel; Higgins, Larry C., eds. 1987. A Utah flora. Great Basin Naturalist Memoir No. 9. Provo, UT: Brigham Young University. 894 p. [2944] 37. Woolley, Samuel B., compiler. 1936. Root systems of important range plants of the Boise River watershed: A catalogue of species excavated by Liter E. Spence, collaborator. Unpublished paper on file at: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Intermountain Fire Sciences Lab, Missoula, MT. 59 p. [78] 38. Wright, Henry A.; Bailey, Arthur W. 1982. Fire ecology: United States and southern Canada. New York: John Wiley & Sons. 501 p. [2620] 39. Young, Richard P. 1986. Fire ecology and management in plant communities of Malheur National Wildlife Refuge. Portland, OR: Oregon State University. 169 p. Thesis. [3745]

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