Horseshoe Vetch - Hippocrepis comosa


Low, usually prostrate, hairy plant, woody at the base. Leaves pinnate with three to eight pairs of linear to oval leaflets. Flowers, yellow, 6 to 10 mm, in stalked heads of five to 12, the standard petal with a distinct claw. Pods twisting, with horse-shoe shaped segments.

Similar Species

Bird's-foot trefoils have similar yellow flower-heads (but very different leaves and seed-pods)

Identification difficulty
ID guidance

leaves with many pairs of leaflets; fruit flattened with several horseshoe-shaped segments

Recording advice

A photograph of the plant in its habitat, but showing leaves and/or fruits as well as flowers 


Short, dry turf on chalk and limestone.

When to see it

Flowers April to July.

Life History


UK Status

Widespread, but local in England, scarce in many other areas of Britain and absent in the far north.

VC55 Status

Scarce and local in Leicestershire and Rutland. It was not recorded in the 1979 Flora survey of Leicestershire.

In the current checklist (Jeeves 2011) it is listed as Native; calcareous grassland.  There are few recent records.

It is on the Rare Plant Register

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Leicestershire & Rutland Map


Yellow squares = NBN records (all known data)
Coloured circles = NatureSpot records: 2020+ | 2015-2019 | pre-2015

UK Map