Botanical Name: Vicia americana
Synonyms: Lathyrus diffusus. Orobus diffusus
Common Names:American Vetch, Mat vetch, Purple vetch
Habitat : Vicia americana is native to N. America – Alaska to Ontario and New York, south to Virginia, Kentucky and Arizona.It grows on damp or gravelly slopes, thickets and meadows.
Vicia americana is a single-stemmed, climbing perennial forb that measurers up to 16 inches tall. It grows from both taproot and rhizome. The leaves are each made up of oblong leaflets and have tendrils for climbing. It bears showy pea-like flowers in shades of lavender and fuchsia. The fruit is a hairless pod about 3 centimeters long that contains usually two light brown peas.
The 8 to 16 leaflets are broadly elliptical to linear measuring 0.4 to 1.5 inches in length. The lower stipules are deeply lacerated, often appearing star-like (Isley 1998). The inflorescence is a raceme with up to 10 purple flowers approximately 0.5 to 1.5 inches long. Flowering occurs from May to August with the seeds maturing around one month after pollination (Voss, 1985; Wasser, 1982). The fruit is a 1 to 1.5 inch long pod bearing two to several pea-like seeds. There are approximately 33,000 seeds/lb (USDA–NRCS, 2015). American vetch has a moderate to deeply-branched taproot which reaches a maximum depth of 40 inches. The deep tap root allows for the plant to exhibit characteristics of severe drought tolerance.
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It is in flower in July. The flowers are hermaphrodite (have both male and female organs) and are pollinated by Insects.The plant is self-fertile. It can fix Nitrogen.
We have very little information on this species and do not know if it will be hardy in Britain, though judging by its native range it should succeed outdoors in many parts of the country. The following notes are based on the general needs of the genus. Succeeds in any well-drained soil in a sunny position if the soil is reliably moist throughout the growing season, otherwise it is best grown in semi-shade. A climbing plant, attaching itself to supports by means of tendrils. 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.
Propagation : Pre-soak the seed for 24 hours in warm water and then sow in situ in spring or autumn.
Edible Uses: Young shoots – cooked. The tender seeds are eaten by the N. American Indians. Both the mature seeds and the immature seedpods can be used. The pod is about 3cm long and contains 4 – 7 seeds.
The leaves have been rubbed in the hands and applied to spider bites. An infusion of the crushed leaves have been used as a bath for treating soreness. An infusion of the plant has been used as an eyewash. An infusion of the leaves has been used by women as a love medicine.
Other Uses : The stout roots have been used for tying
Disclaimer : The information presented herein is intended for educational purposes only. Individual results may vary, and before using any supplement, it is always advisable to consult with your own health care provider.