Most reports on the use of lectins from this plant refer to Vicia graminea Sm. However, this is a misidentification, Vicia epetiolaris is the actual species used[
Vicia epetiolaris is an annual to biennial plant growing 20 - 100cm tall; it has scrambling stems, branched from near the base, that climb into any surrounding vegetation, attaching themselves by means of tendrils.
The plant is cultivated in the Netherlands for its seeds, which contain a lectin that is used for testing blood groups in medicinal laboratories[
Southern S. America - Argentina, Paraguay, Uruguay, southern Brazil.
Prefers humid meadows, flooding areas or river/sea sides; deep soils with high organic matter, does not tolerate compact, clay, shallow, low fertility soils[
Species in this genus generally succeed in any well-drained soil in a sunny position if the soil is reliably moist throughout the growing season, otherwise they are best grown in semi-shade[
This species has a symbiotic relationship with certain soil bacteria, these bacteria form nodules on the roots and fix atmospheric nitrogen. Some of this nitrogen is utilized by the growing plant but some can also be used by other plants growing nearby[
The plant is a source of a seed lectin which is used for testing blood groups in medicinal laboratories[
]. It is used to identify the N blood group antigen.
Seed - sow in situ in spring or autumn. The seed has a hard seedcoat and may benefit from scarification before sowing in order to speed up and improve germination. This can usually be done by pouring a small amount of nearly boiling water on the seeds (being careful not to cook them!) and then soaking them for 12 - 24 hours in warm water. By this time they should have imbibed moisture and swollen - if they have not, then carefully make a nick in the seedcoat (being careful not to damage the embryo) and soak for a further 12 hours before sowing.