Onobrychis viciifolia Scop. (Sainfoin): In Vitro Culture and the Production of Condensed Tannins

  • G. L. Lees
Part of the Biotechnology in Agriculture and Forestry book series (AGRICULTURE, volume 24)


Sainfoin (Onobrychis viciifolia Scop. (family Leguminoseae) is a perennial forage legume that has been grown in Europe and Asia for centuries (Duke 1981). The most widely used common name, sainfoin, is derived from the French “saint foin” meaning holy or wholesome hay. Other common names include: holy or holy hay, French grass, everlasting grass, medick vetchling, cockshead, esparcet, or snail grass. Its botanical genus name, Onobrychis, comes from the Greek words “onos” meaning ass, and it is felt that brychis is derived from “bruchis”, a plant. This provides some insight into the value that was placed on this species because it had been noted that asses were particularly partial to sainfoin as a feed (Usman 1967). Sainfoin grew in Russia as a forage crop over 1000 years ago and was noted in France in the 14th century, Germany in the 17th century, and Italy in the 18th century (Ditterline and Cooper 1975). The first introductions of sainfoin came to North America from Europe in the early 1900s, but its success as a forage crop did not occur until the 1960s when strains from Turkey and the USSR displayed the necessary adaptibility and yield to enable the development of cultivars for the Northern Great Plains and Canadian Prairies (Hanna et al. 1977). Although North American cultivars are restricted to the species O. viciifolia, there are other species in cultivated use. O. arenaria (Kit.) DC. and O. transcaucasica Grossh. are cultivated in the USSR and China, while O. sativa Lam. is grown in Great Britain (Hoveland and Townsend 1985) along with O. viciifolia (Doyle et al. 1984).


Condensed Tannin Birdsfoot Trefoil Callus Fresh Weight Alfalfa Weevil North American Cultivar 
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© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 1993

Authors and Affiliations

  • G. L. Lees
    • 1
  1. 1.Agriculture Canada Research StationSaskatoonCanada

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