Bandeiraea simplicifolia B4 isolectin (BSLB4) and polyclonal antisera against von Willebrand factor (VWF) were used to study the origin of endothelial cells and their organization into blood vessels in the postimplantation mouse embryo. Examination of BSLB4-stained whole mounted and sectioned embryos revealed intense staining of the endothelium, highlighting large vessels, capillaries, and many individual cells. Dorsal aorta formation was first obvious at E7 when many lectin-positive cells appeared in paraxial and lateral plate mesoderm. As development proceeded to E8, BSLB4-positive cells became organized into craniocaudal lines destined to become the aorta proper. At E9, BSLB4 stained all vessels of the embryo including the dorsal aorta, the intersomitic arteries, and the endocardium. VWF expression was not detected until E8 when BSLB4/VWF double-stained sections revealed the dorsal aortae as the first VWF-positive vessels, while other endothelium visible with BSLB4 remained negative for VWF immunostaining. By E12 many other vessels became VWF-positive, including the aortic arches, the intersomitic arteries, and the cardinal veins. However, many angioblasts and capillaries remained VWF-negative, reflecting the heterogeneous expression of VWF among endothelium that has been reported in adults of other species. The histochemical data reported here support the conclusions of earlier avian studies by showing distinct vascular patterns in the initial formation of vessels from isolated angioblasts (vasculogenesis), followed by the extension and organization of the initial vascular structures (angiogenesis). Moreover, our data suggest that the endothelium arises from distinct VWF-positive sources associated with the dorsal aorta, as well as VWF-negative sources associated with other vessels in the embryo.