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Vicia americana

Vicia americana

Vicia americana

Vicia americana

Vicia americana
Vicia americana (American Vetch)
Fabaceae (Pea Family)

Foothills, montane, subalpine. Woodlands, meadows. Summer.
Above: Navajo Lake Trail, July 31, 2015.
Left: Bear Creek Trail, June 14, 2005.

The incredibly rich hues of lavender/purple and the numerous flowers make this common Pea quite noticeable even though individual flowers are small.  Hairiness and leaf shape are highly variable.  Vicia americana is found in mountain meadows in the Four Corners area.  It usually wraps its tendrils around other plants for support.  It is a common plant in much of the United States and southern Canada.

Allred, Weber, and Welsh do not recognize Vicia americana subspecies; a few other botanists do. There are, according to the latter botanists, two subspecies: Vicia americana subspecies americana and subspecies minor. I have not been able to determine the subspecies of the plants shown on this page, but it is probable that they are what some botanists are calling Vicia americana subspecies americana, for one characteristic that is used to separate the two subspecies is shape of the tendrils: forked tendrils (as shown in the photographs at the top of the page) are a characteristic of subspecies americana.

I will give Stanley Welsh of A Utah Flora the final word on subspecies:

This widespread, indigenous vetch is extremely variable with regard to leaflet length-width ratios and shape. Thickness of leaflets and pubescence also varies considerably. Several subordinate taxa have been based on these variations, but continued recognition seems possible only when diagnostic criteria are arbitrarily applied, and even then with great difficulty.... More importantly, much of the variation seems to be ecologically influenced, and further recognition of most of the types seems unwarranted.

Linnaeus named this genus in 1753, and Gotthiff Muhlenberg (1753-1815) named this species in 1802, apparently from a collection that he made in "Habitat in Pennsylvania".  The name "Vetch" is applied to members of several genera of the Pea Family.  "Vicia" is the classical Latin name for this plant.

Vicia americana
Vicia americana (American Vetch)
Fabaceae (Pea Family)

Foothills, montane, subalpine. Woodlands, meadows. Summer.
Colorado Trail above Roaring Fork Road, June 29, 2006.

Grasses at trailside are often alive with the vibrancy of Vicia americana.

Vicia americana
Vicia americana (American Vetch)
Fabaceae (Pea Family)

Foothills, montane, subalpine. Woodlands, meadows. Summer.
Bear Creek Trail, June 14, 2005.

Vicia americana
Vicia americana (American Vetch)
Fabaceae (Pea Family)

Foothills, montane, subalpine. Woodlands, meadows. Summer.
Navajo Lake Trail, August 30, 2007.

Seed pods dangle. Leaves of Vicia americana can vary as little as shown on this page or can be half as wide.

Vicia americana
Vicia americana
Fab
aceae (Pea Family)

Foothills, montane, subalpine. Woodlands, meadows. Summer.
Bear Creek Trail, June 29, 2010.

Puccinia, a genus of rust fungi, affects a number of Rockcress (Boechera) species, so when I saw the circular golden deposits on the underside of these Vicia leaves I assumed they, too, were the work of Puccinia. I was wrong, as the following information from mycologist David Malloch indicates:

Although I have training in botany I am a mycologist by trade.  In that regard I was pleased to see that you have shed a favourable light on my group by illustrating some rusts.  Your unknown "Puccinia" on Vicia americana is most likely Uromyces fabaeUromyces and Puccinia are really close and differ in having the teliospores one-celled in Uromyces and two-celled in Puccinia.

I checked further on that Vicia rust and it seems that the name Uromyces  viciae-fabae is probably better. 

Species of Puccinia and Uromyces are really similar and can be distinguished for certain only by microscopic examination of their teliospores.  Both can potentially have five spore types in their life cycles, but only the teliospores will differ.  In your picture of Vicia americana, the spores being produced are aeciospores in tiny cup-like aecia.  This would usually be a stage found early in the growing season.  Uromyces  viciae-fabae is a monoecious rust, one with only one plant host, and will produce all five stages on Vicia.

Range map © John Kartesz,
Floristic Synthesis of North America

State Color Key

Species present in state and native
Species present in state and exotic
Species not present in state

County Color Key

Species present and not rare
Species present and rare
Species extirpated (historic)
Species extinct
Species noxious
Species exotic and present
Native species, but adventive in state
Eradicated
Questionable presence

Range map for Vicia americana  

Vicia americana subspcies americana

Range map for Vicia americana subspecies americana

Vicia americana subspcies minor

Range map for Vicia americana subspecies minor