Alfalfa; Lucerne (Medicago Sativa) (European) is found growing wild in waste places or fields most anywhere in our range. It makes an excellent fodder for cattle and will grow in waste, sandy places where it is impossible to raise crops of hay.
Our Government has devoted considerable attention to the cultivation of this species and it is now extensively raised in the Southern and Western States, where thousands of tons are annually harvested and stored for the needs of livestock.
The stalk is smooth, slender, branching and erect; it grows from 1 to 2 feet high. The leaves are three-parted, on long slender stems with narrow stipules at their bases; each of the three leaflets has a tiny, sharp bristle at its end, and the middle one has a short, slender stem with a distinct double bend. The purple flowers grow in short, loose racemes at the ends of the slender branches; the seed-pod is curiously twisted or coiled and contains several seeds.
Cow Vetch; Blue Vetch (Vicia Cracca) is a trailing herb with a weak, angled stem; it is common on the borders of thickets or the edges of cultivated fields. The stem grows from two to three feet long and climbs over grass or low brush by means of small, slender tendrils at the ends of the leaves.
The compound leaves are made up of twenty to thirty small, oval leaflets, each tipped with a tiny, sharp-pointed bristle. The light violet-colored, beanlike flowers grow in a one-sided raceme on slender stalks from the angles of the terminating leaves of the branching, hairy stem. The flowers are reflexed, that is, they point downwards on their stem.
Several other species of Vetch have been introduced and are quite common, chief of which is the Common Vetch (V. sativa) which has fewer leaflets and flowers in pairs.
A. Ground Nut; Wild Bean.
B. Hog Peanut.
Ground Nut; Wild Bean (Apios Tuberosa) is an exceedingly beautiful climbing vine, attaining lengths of four or five feet, crawling over walls or fences, or twisting itself about shrubs or other plants. Its pear-shaped, tuberous root is edible, as every country boy knows.
While it does not prey upon plants by sucking their juices, as some of the climbing, twining vines do, this species sometimes entwines itself so tightly about its supporting plant as to retard the latter's growth or even to kill it. One of the most unique floral sights, that I recall, is that of many large Tiger Lilies, with their tall stout stalks entwined with the present species, and each of them in full flower.
The leaves of the Ground Nut are compounded of five, or sometimes seven, ovate-pointed leaflets; they are toothless, smooth and light green. The flowers grow in dense, rounded clusters on slender stalks from between the angles of the leaves and the plant stem; they are maroon or lilac-brown, have very broad, reflexed standards and long scythe-shaped keels, strongly incurved or coiled. The flowers have a very rich coloring, different from that of any other species that I have ever seen. We find the Ground Nut in bloom during August and September in damp ground, usually on the borders of swamps or wet meadows, from N. B. to Minn, and southwards to the Gulf.
Wild Or Hog Peanut (Amphicarpa Monoica) is a dainty, trailing vine 2 to 7 feet long. The delicate, light green leaves are thrice compounded, on slender stems from the angles of which are small, drooping clusters of magenta-lilac blossoms. Other fruitful blossoms at the base of the plant develop into pear-shaped pods with single large seeds. From the fact that hogs used to root up and eat these, came the rather inappropriate name.