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Horseshoe Vetch

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Flowering from May to July it can be found on short, calcareous, turf on cliffs and downs, and is extremely common near the Dorset coast


Horseshoe Vetch: the butterflies friend

Post date: Thursday, 9 June, 2016 - 19:22

If you are particularly keen to see an Adonis blue butterfly then I suggest you start by going in search of horseshoe vetch (Hippocrepis comosa), the butterfly's food plant. The Adonis is not the only species that has a passion for this flower, the chalkhill blue is another, but there is undoubtedly a very close connection between the two and you will only find the Adonis where there is a very good colony of horseshoe vetch.

Being a vetch it is, of course, a member of the pea family and as such has the classic pea shaped flower. However, in horseshoe vetch the pea flowers are arranged, unsurprisingly perhaps, in a distinctive horseshoe shape around the head of the stalk; there does not seem to be a specific number of flowers per 'horseshoe'.

Flowering from May to July horseshoe vetch can only be found on short, calcareous, turf on cliffs and downs and so is extremely common near the Dorset coast, hence the abundance of Adonis blue butterflies here too.


The records for this species have been organised into reports, charts, maps and photos. Click a pic below to see the detail:

Sites List Distribution Map Some Charts Some Photographs Original Tweets Relatives Guidance Notes
Common Name Horseshoe Vetch
Scientific Name Hippocrepis comosa
Family Pea family - Leguminosae
Status Locally frequent
Interest Level
Species Family Pea Family - Fabaceae
Flower Colour Group Yellow
  • 04 - April
  • 05 - May
  • 06 - June
  • 07 - July
Preferred Environment
Look for Pea-shaped flowers arranged around the top of a central as a horseshoe shape
Additional Identification Notes
Similar Species

This species is often found in these habitats:

Habitat(s) Relationship
GC: Calcareous Grassland Associated