Kidney Vetch is easily recognisable as clusters of small yellow flowers sitting atop little woolly cushions, and is a distinctive feature of sand dunes, chalk grassland and cliffs across the UK. Flowering from June to September, this spreading plant can cover bare ground in the right conditions.
How to identify
Kidney Vetch has round clusters of small flowers that are mainly yellow, but can also be orange and red. Each flower has its own hairy calyx (containing the sepals), giving the flower cluster its woolly appearance. The leaves of Kidney Vetch are divided into narrow leaflets that are silky and white underneath.
Where to find it
Grows throughout the UK, in particular around the coast.
When to find it
How can people help
Kidney Vetch is the sole foodplant for the larvae of the Small Blue Butterfly - a seriously declining insect which is classified as a Priority Species in the UK Biodiversity Action Plan. Although Kidney Vetch itself is not threatened, the habitats in which it grows are becoming fragmented and being lost at a rapid rate; for example, it's estimated that we've lost 80% of our chalk grassland over the last 60 years. The Wildlife Trusts manage many grassland and coastal nature reserves for the benefit of the rare wildlife they hold. You can help too: volunteer for your local Wildlife Trust and you could be involved in everything from scrub-cutting to stockwatching.