The chromosomal sites of 5S and 45S rDNA genes were revealed by fluorescence in situ hybridisation, and used as landmarks to resolve the ambiguous taxonomic status of the tetraploid Vicia amoena var. amoena (Fabaceae). Comparisons of the number and location of rDNA loci in V. amoena var. sericea, V. pseudorobus, V. dumetorum, V. pisijormis and V. cracca confirmed that V. amoena var sericea, or a closely related diploid, was a likely progenitor of the tetraploid. However, the tetraploid contains chromosomes bearing rDNA loci which are probably derived from another species, such as V. pseudorobus, suggesting that it is an allotetraploid and the product of an interspecific hybridisation event. This was corroborated by fluorescence in situ hybridisation with genomic DNA from V. amoena var sericea, which not only showed that the tetraploid contains more than one chromosome set, but also that its constituent sets have undergone considerable reorganisation.