Seen here in a large patch near the St David’s entrance, looking northwards towards the area of the Caddy Pond and beyond that the ancient footpath uphill to Northampton University Moulton Park Campus and the Gallagher Sports Field, is the pretty pink-flowered common vetch. It is another member of the pea and bean family, like gorse and broom, which all make their own nitrogen fertiliser by capturing the nitrogen from the air and fixing it around their roots. This clever trick can’t be performed by the plant alone. It forms a partnership with specific bacteria, and if you get a look at the roots you’ll see that there are lots of small pink nodules attached, which is where the bacteria are housed!
People discovered the amazing fertilising power of this plant family thousands of years ago and have been using these plants in agriculture ever since, to grow more bountiful crops. Many, like this tare, can make nutritious animal fodder, and the flowers are also popular with a variety of bees – as shown here where it is being visited by a particularly rare species.