Crown vetch or axseed (Coronilla varia)


Appearance: Perennial herbaceous plant, growing 2 - 6' long stems with a reclining and trailing growth pattern. In winter and early spring crown vetch can be easily recognized as brown unsightly patches.

Leaves: Pinnately (feather-like) compound, (leaflets on both sides of a common stalk) with 15 - 25 pairs of oblong leaflets.

Flowers: Clustered in flat-topped umbels ranging from pink, lavender to white on extended stalks which grow from the leaf axils; blooming from May through August.

Seeds: Slender seeds are contained in finger-like pods; they remain viable in the soil for 15 years.

Roots: Spread vegetatively with horizontal stems growing below the soil surface, called rhizomes, forming roots and producing new plants. They can grow up to 10' long, contributing to extensive vegetative spread.

Ecological Threat:

  • It is now a serious invader of prairies and dunes.
  • It is found in disturbed remnant prairies and woodland edges, gravel bars along streams, as well as agricultural land and roadsides. It prefers open and sunny areas.
  • It was introduced from Europe and southeast Asia during the 1950s as groundcover, bank and slope stabilizer along roads and waterways, and as green fertilizer crop, and it is still sold commercially.
  • Crown vetch is a MDA Restricted noxious weed in Minnesota.


Control Methods:


  • Prescribed burning in late spring for several successive years
  • Mowing in June and late August for several successive years


  • Spot spraying affected areas, (after re-greening from a burn or mowing), with clopyralid+surfactant+dye.
  • (This selective herbicide also affects native plants of the sunflower and pea families.)


Native Substitutes:

Additional Resources