Overview

Comprehensive Description

Description

This native perennial plant is 1½–3½' tall, branching occasionally. The ridged stems are pubescent. The alternate compound leaves are odd pinnate, and 5-9" long, with about 21-31 leaflets. The oblong leaflets are about 1½" long and 3/8" across, with smooth edges. From the upper axils of the compound leaves there occasionally develops a whorled raceme of flowers from a stout stalk. A raceme (including the stalk) is usually about 1-2" longer than the compound leaves subtending it, or about 7-11" long. A typical raceme is crowded with about 75 creamy flowers, which may have yellow or green tints. Each flower is about ¾" long and tubular-shaped, although jutting slightly upward toward the outer tip. It consists of five petals, including a curved upper hood, a lower keel, and close-fitting side petals. The blooming period occurs during the summer and lasts about 2-3 months. There is no noticeable floral scent. The flowers are replaced by stout oval pods with long pointed tips, which are held nearly erect on the stalk. The root system consists of a taproot. Cultivation
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© John Hilty

Source: Illinois Wildflowers

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Comments

There are very few Astragalus spp. that occur in Illinois. Canada Milkvetch has a distinctive appearance on account of its size (up to 3½' tall) and abundant creamy flowers (about 75 per raceme). Some pale-flowered vetches are superficially similar in appearance, such as Vicia carolina (Carolina Vetch). However, vetches are vine-like plants with tendrils, while Canada Milkvetch is a semi-erect plant without tendrils (although it may clamber over adjacent vegetation, nonetheless). Another difference is the inflorescence
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Source: Illinois Wildflowers

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Description

General: Bean family (Fabaceae). Canadian milkvetch (Astragalus canadensis) is a smooth, stout-stemmed plant that grows up to five feet tall (Ladd 1995). The leaves are smooth; elliptic to oblong, with thirteen to thirty-one stalked leaflets that are one to two inches long. The flowers are greenish white to cream colored, with a regular pea flower shape, located at the ends of long stalks. The fruit is a smooth, erect, stout, woody pod, twelve to fifteen millimeters long and divided into two cells (Vance, Jowsey, & McLean 1984).

Distribution: Astragalus canadensis ranges from Quebec and Vermont to Hudson Bay and British Columbia, south to Virginia, West Virginia, Arkansas, Texas and Colorado (Steyermark 1963). For current distribution, please consult the Plant profile page for this species on the PLANTS Web site.

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USDA NRCS National Plant Data Center

Source: USDA NRCS PLANTS Database

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Alternative names

Canada milk-vetch, Canada milkvetch

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Distribution

National Distribution

Canada

Origin: Unknown/Undetermined

Regularity: Regularly occurring

Currently: Unknown/Undetermined

Confidence: Confident

United States

Origin: Native

Regularity: Regularly occurring

Currently: Present

Confidence: Confident

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Range and Habitat in Illinois

Canada Milkvetch occurs occasionally in the northern half of Illinois, but is rather uncommon in most areas of southern Illinois (see Distribution Map). Habitats include moist to slightly dry black soil prairies, sand prairies, typical and sandy savannas, thickets and woodland borders, moist meadows near rivers, and abandoned fields. Faunal Associations
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Localities documented in Tropicos sources

Astragalus canadensis var. longilobus Fassett:
United States (North America)

Note: This information is based on publications available through Tropicos and may not represent the entire distribution. Tropicos does not categorize distributions as native or non-native.
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Source: Missouri Botanical Garden

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Localities documented in Tropicos sources

Astragalus halei Rydb.:
United States (North America)

Note: This information is based on publications available through Tropicos and may not represent the entire distribution. Tropicos does not categorize distributions as native or non-native.
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Localities documented in Tropicos sources

Astragalus canadensis var. carolinianus (L.) M.E. Jones:
United States (North America)

Note: This information is based on publications available through Tropicos and may not represent the entire distribution. Tropicos does not categorize distributions as native or non-native.
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Localities documented in Tropicos sources

Astragalus canadensis L.:
Canada (North America)
United States (North America)

Note: This information is based on publications available through Tropicos and may not represent the entire distribution. Tropicos does not categorize distributions as native or non-native.
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Adaptation

Canadian milkvetch is commonly found in dry prairies, moist shores, riverbanks, marshy grounds and open or partly shaded ground (Voss 1985). This species requires a well-drained soil in a sunny position. It has low tolerance of root disturbance and cannot tolerate extremely cold weather.

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USDA NRCS National Plant Data Center

Source: USDA NRCS PLANTS Database

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Physical Description

Morphology

Physical Description

Perennial, Herbs, Stems woody below, or from woody crown or caudex, Plants with rhizomes or suckers, Nodules present, Stems erect or ascending, Stems or branches arching, spreading or decumbent, Stems less than 1 m tall, Stems 1-2 m tall, Stems hollow, or spongy, Stems with 2-branched hairs, dolabriform, Leaves alternate, Leaves petiolate, Stipules conspicuous, Stipules membranous or chartaceous, Stipules persistent, Stipules connate to each other, forming a tuber or sheath, Leaves compound, Leaves odd pinnate, Leaf or leaflet margins entire, Leaflets opposite, Leaflets 10-many, Leaves hairy on one or both surfaces, Inflorescences racemes, Inflorescence axillary, Bracts very small, absent or caducous, Flowers zy gomorphic, Calyx 5-lobed, Calyx hairy, Petals separate, Corolla papilionaceous, Petals clawed, Petals ochroleucous, cream colored, Banner petal narrow or oblanceolate, Wing petals narrow, oblanceolate to oblong, Wing petals auriculate, Wing tips obtuse or rounded, Keel petals auriculate, spurred, or gibbous, Keel tips obtuse or rounded, not beaked, Stamens 9-10, Stamens diadelphous, 9 united, 1 free, Filaments glabrous, Style terete, Style persistent in fruit, Fruit a legume, Fruit unilocular, Fruit freely dehiscent, Fruit elongate, straight, Fruit exserted from calyx, Fruit beaked, Fruit glabrous or glabrate, Fruit 11-many seeded, Seeds cordiform, mit-shaped, notched at one end, Seed surface smooth, Seeds olive, brown, or black.
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Dr. David Bogler

Source: USDA NRCS PLANTS Database

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Type Information

Isotype for Astragalus oreophilus Rydb.
Catalog Number: US 369931
Collection: Smithsonian Institution, National Museum of Natural History, Department of Botany
Verification Degree: Original publication and alleged type specimen examined
Preparation: Pressed specimen
Collector(s): C. F. Baker
Year Collected: 1899
Locality: Pagosa Springs., Archuleta, Colorado, United States, North America
  • Isotype: Rydberg, P. A. 1904. Bull. Torrey Bot. Club. 31: 561.
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© Smithsonian Institution, National Museum of Natural History, Department of Botany

Source: National Museum of Natural History Collections

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Ecology

Habitat

Range and Habitat in Illinois

Canada Milkvetch occurs occasionally in the northern half of Illinois, but is rather uncommon in most areas of southern Illinois (see Distribution Map). Habitats include moist to slightly dry black soil prairies, sand prairies, typical and sandy savannas, thickets and woodland borders, moist meadows near rivers, and abandoned fields. Faunal Associations
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Source: Illinois Wildflowers

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Dispersal

Establishment

Propagation by Seed: Canadian milkvetch seeds should be sown in a cold frame as soon as they are ripe. Seeds should be pre-soaked for twenty-four hours in hot water before sowing. Germination can be slow but is usually within four to nine weeks if the seeds are sown fresh. When they are large enough to handle, place the seedlings into individual pots and grow plant them in the greenhouse for their first winter. Plant them into their permanent positions in spring or early summer.

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Source: USDA NRCS PLANTS Database

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Associations

Flower-Visiting Insects of Canada Milkvetch in Illinois

Astragalus canadensis (Canada Milkvetch)
(Long-tongued bees collect pollen or suck nectar; other insects suck nectar; most observations are from Robertson, although one observation is from Mitchell as indicated below)

Bees (long-tongued)
Apidae (Apinae): Apis mellifera sn; Apidae (Bombini): Bombus auricomus sn cp fq, Bombus griseocallis sn, Bombus pensylvanica sn cp fq; Anthophoridae (Eucerini): Melissodes bimaculata bimaculata sn; Megachilidae (Anthidinini): Anthidium psoraleae sn icp; Megachilidae (Megachilini): Megachile brevis brevis (Mch), Megachile centuncularis sn

Bees (short-tongued)
Halictidae (Halictinae): Halictus parallelus sn

Wasps
Vespidae (Eumeninae): Stenodynerus fundatiformis sn

Skippers
Hesperiidae: Erynnis martialis sn np

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Molecular Biology and Genetics

Molecular Biology

Barcode data: Astragalus canadensis

The following is a representative barcode sequence, the centroid of all available sequences for this species.


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© Barcode of Life Data Systems

Source: Barcode of Life Data Systems (BOLD)

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Statistics of barcoding coverage: Astragalus canadensis

Barcode of Life Data Systems (BOLDS) Stats
Public Records: 3
Specimens with Barcodes: 3
Species With Barcodes: 1
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Source: Barcode of Life Data Systems (BOLD)

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Conservation

Conservation Status

National NatureServe Conservation Status

Canada

Rounded National Status Rank: NNR - Unranked

United States

Rounded National Status Rank: N5 - Secure

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NatureServe Conservation Status

Rounded Global Status Rank: G5 - Secure

Reasons: The North American astragalus with the largest distributional range, this species is found throughout most of North America and into Siberia in a wide variety of habitats. It is rare in parts of the eastern and southeastern United States and in a few other areas, but is still common in most of its range. The typical variety is especially abundant from Minnesota and Wisconsin south to Missouri and eastern Oklahoma; the other two varieties are found in the Great Basin and forested Intermountain Northwest, and are abundant in large areas of eastern Washington and Idaho.

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Status

Please consult the Plants Web site and your State Department of Natural Resources for this plant’s current status, such as, state noxious status and wetland indicator values.

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Source: USDA NRCS PLANTS Database

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Management

Cultivars, improved and selected materials (and area of origin)

Materials are somewhat available from native plant seed vendors. Contact your local Natural Resources Conservation Service (formerly Soil Conservation Service) office for more information. Look in the phone book under ”United States Government”. The Natural Resources Conservation Service will be listed under the subheading “Department of Agriculture.”

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Canadian milkvetch looks similar to some closely related poisonous locoweeds, so its use is not recommended unless positive identification can be made (Kindscher 1987). Many members of this genus contain a poison that affects cattle (Fielder 1975). They become affected with a sort of insanity, a slow poisoning that can cause death within a period of months or even a year or two (Ibid).

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Relevance to Humans and Ecosystems

Benefits

Uses

Ethnobotanic: The Blackfoot, who dug them in the spring for eating (Kindscher 1987), gathered Canadian milkvetch roots. Canadian milkvetch was often used in a broth (Moerman 1998).

Medical: The root is analgesic and antihaemorrhagic and can be chewed or used as a tea to treat chest and back pains, coughs and spiting up of blood (Moerman 1998). A poultice made from the chewed root has also been used to treat cuts (Ibid.).

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Wikipedia

Astragalus canadensis

Astragalus canadensis is a common and widespread member of the milkvetch genus in the legume family, known commonly as Canadian milkvetch. The plant is found throughout Canada and the United States in many habitats including wetlands, woodlands, and prairies. It sends out several thin, erect, green stems, bearing leaves that are actually made up of pairs of leaflets, each leaflet up to 3 centimeters in length. It has inflorescences of tubular, greenish-white flowers which yield beanlike fruits within pods that rattle when dry.

Like other Astragalus species, A. canadensis is somewhat toxic, but it has been used medicinally by Native American groups such as the Blackfoot and Lakota people, particularly the roots.

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