Astragalus canadensis (Canada Milkvetch)
|Also known as:||Canadian Milk-vetch|
|Habitat:||part shade, sun; average to moist soil, prairies, shorelines, edges of woods|
|Bloom season:||June - August|
|Plant height:||12 to 40 inches|
|Wetland Indicator Status:||GP: FAC MW: FAC NCNE: FAC|
|MN county distribution (click map to enlarge):|
|National distribution (click map to enlarge):|
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Flowers are in densely packed spike-like clusters up to 6 inches long at the end of a long stalk arising from a leaf axil. Individual flowers are about ½ inch long, a typical pea shape but elongated. The color ranges from pale yellow to greenish to creamy white. One plant has several to many spikes on many branching stems.
Leaves and stem:
Leaves are compound in groups of 15 to 31. Leaflets are to 1¼ inches long and ½ inch wide, becoming smaller at the end of the leaf. The shape is eliptical to egg-shaped, with a rounded base and blunt point at the tip. Leaflets are slightly hairy, and toothless. Stems are ridged, slightly hairy, and turn red in strong sun.
Notes:Native legumes like Canada Milkvetch are an important part of the Minnesota ecology. Canada Milkvetch and Wild Licorice (Glycyrrhiza lepidota) seed is a food source for Acanthoscelides aureolus, a tiny weevil, the beginning of the predatory food chain. Canada Milkvetch makes a great garden plant and is adaptable to any reasonably well-drained soil, fixing nitrogen into the soil and providing erosion control. Non-natives like Chickpea Milkvetch (Astragalus cicer) are often used for these purposes instead, since, being “pest-free”, they are not subject to the insect/herbivore complex that keeps native species populations under control, which, of course, allows the non-natives to flourish unchecked.
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Where to buy native seed and plants ↓
- Canada Milkvetch plant
- a small colony of Canada Milkvetch
- more flowers
- planted Canada Milkvetch
- Acanthoscelides aureolus on Wild Licorice seed
Photos by K. Chayka taken at Wild River State Park, Chisago county and McKnight Prairie, Goodhue county. Photos courtesy Peter M. Dziuk taken in Stearns county.
Have you seen this plant in Minnesota, or have any other comments about it?