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two groove milk vetchTWO-GROOVE MILK-VETCH Astragalus bisulcatus This tall, erect, many-stemmed perennial herb ascends one to two feet from woody taproots. The white to violet pealike flowers bend downward and are arranged in long, showy clusters or racemes. The leaves are pinnately divided into nine to 25 linear to elliptic leaflets, the upper surface of which are covered with fine, white hairs. The pendulous pods are nearly a half-inch long, with two grooves along the upper surface. HABITAT/RANGE: Typically occurs on alkaline soils of sagebrush deserts and grasslands. It is found mostly along the eastern slope of the Rocky Mountains, from Alberta to Montana, Nebraska and New Mexico. Blooms during May to August. FACTS/USES: The specific name means two-grooved. This species is one of the worst stock-poisoning plants in the West. It often grows on alkali soils where selenium is present and absorbs this poisonous element into the foliage. If selenium is absent, the plant is palatable.

 

thistle milk vetchTHISTLE MILK-VETCH Astragalus kentrophyta Thistle milk-vetch forms a very low cushion or mat of spiny, stiff leaves. Small pealike flowers with purptish banners are partly hidden among the foliage, and each flower stem supports one to three flowers in a raceme. The leaves are pinnately divided into five to 11 linear to elliptic, silvery-strigose leaflets with sharp-pointed to spinose apexes. The smalt half-inch-long seed pod has one to four seeds. HABITAT/RANGE: This species inhabits a variety of habitats, from sandy deserts and badlands to alpine ridges and talus slopes. It is distributed from southern Alberta to the Dakotas, south to Nebraska, Colorado and central California. Flowers early to late summer. FACTS/USES: The Astragalus genus is a large group of diverse plants with some members having nearly identical appearance, making identification dependent upon technical features-usually the developed pods.

 

prush milk vetchPURSH'S MILK-VETCH Astragalus purshii Pursh's milk-vetch is a low, tufted, grayish-green plant. The compound leaves are nearly the same length as the flowering stalks, giving the flowers, and later the pods, a nestled appearance among the leaves. The leaves are pinnately divided into seven to 10 round to acute leaflets, which are covered with dense gray hairs. The flower stalks bearthree to lOflowerson a raceme. Each pealike flower is white or yellow, with a reddish tinge on the inner petals. The pods are short, thick, curved and densely tomentose. HABITAT/RANGE: An inhabitant of clay and gravelly soils of sagebrush deserts to lower-mountain foothills, it is distributed from British Columbia to Alberta, south to the Dakotas, New Mexico and California. Flowers mid-April to July. FACTS/USES: The generic name is derived from the Greek word, astragalos, and means ankle bone, referring to the shape of the leaves or pod. It is a selenium accumulator.

 

american licoriceAMERICAN LICORICE Glycyrrhiza lepidota American licorice is an erect, branching, perennial herb that ascends one to three feet from thickened rhizomes. The pinnate leaves are comprised of seven to 15 lanceolate leaflets. The yellowish-white flowers occur in dense racemes, which rise from the leaf axils. Later, the flowers will develop into burlike seed pods dotted with hooked spines. HABITAT/ RANGE: Licorice usually is found in waste places, silly river bottoms and other moist, low ground. It is distributed widely throughout the West, from British Columbia to Ontario, south to Texas, New Mexico and California. Flowers June to early August. FACTS/USES: The generic name is derived from the Greek words, glykys, for sweet, and rhiza, for root. The specific name means with small scurfy scales and refers to the stalked glands covering parts of the plant. The sweet, pleasant-tasting roots can be eaten raw.

 

sweet vetchSWEETVETCH Hedysarum boreale Sweetvetch is a "bushy," highly branched perennial herb, one to two feet tall, with thin, brownish papery bracts or stipules at the base of each leaf. The leaves are pinnately divided into nine to 15 elliptic or oblong leaflets. Each leaflet is hairless, with minute brown dots or glands on the upper surface. The red to purplish-red pealike flowers are arranged in long, showy racemes. The fruit is a flattened pod, containing two to five seeds, with obvious constrictions between each seed. HABITAT/RANGE: This species grows on dry, clay soils of open or lightly shaded areas in sagebrush plains to aspen belts. It is distributed from the Yukon Territory to Newfoundland and south in our region to the Dakotas, New Mexico and Arizona. Blooms in late spring or early summer. FACTS/ USES: The specific name means northern. Sweetvetch, unlike locoweed, is not poisonous, and the edible licorice-tasting roots have been used by Native Americans.

 

silver lupineSILVERY LUPINE Lupinus argenteus Sky-blue flowers and somewhat gray, hairy foliage distinguish this lupine. Several varieties have been split from this species, and there is a wide variation in leaf size and shape, with leaflets ranging from oblanceolate to acuminate, and glabrous to densely grayish-hairy. The leaves are palmately divided into five to 11 leaflets and generally are bright green. Flowers are arranged in long spikes of small one-eighth- to one-inch pealike flowers. HABITAT/RANGE: This mountain flower of pine forests to subalpine ridges prefers moist soils. It is distributed from central Oregon to Alberta, to the Dakotas, south to New Mexico and northeast California. Flowers late June to early August. FACTS/USES: The specific name means silvery. Lupines are poisonous, especially the seeds, which contain alkaloids, but poisoning mostly is limited to domestic livestock.

 

sllky lupineSILKY LUPINE Lupinus sericeus Silky lupine is a perennial herb that grows in large clumps one to two feet high. It is distinguished by its pealike, light blue flowers, arranged in a dense terminal raceme, and its hairy or silky palmate leaves. HABITAT/RANGE: Silky lupine prefers dry soils of sagebrush deserts to lower montane forests. It is distributed widely from British Columbia to Alberta, south to New Mexico and California. Blooms June to early August. FACTS/USES: The specific name means silky. The name "lupine" is derived from the Latin name lupinus, meaning wolf. It was believed that lupines robbed the soil of its fertility, which is not true. On the roots are nodules with bacteria that fix nitrogen that otherwise would be lost. Nitrogen is an important element in the growth of all plants, and lupine actually provides extra nitrogen, thereby making the soil more fertile for other plants.

 

yellow street cloveYELLOW SWEET-CLOVER Melilotus officinalis This is atall, robust, highly branched biennial herb that grows up to 10 feet tall. The small, yellow, pealike flowers are arranged along a slender raceme. The leaves are divided into three lanceolate, finely toothed leaflets. A closely related species, white sweet-clover (M. alba), is more widespread and important in the West but is not as noticeable as the bright yellow species. HABITAT/RANGE: Prefers waste and disturbed sites along roads and pastures. A native to Europe, it first found its way west with early missionaries and now is found over most of temperate North America. Flowers May to October. FACTS/USES: The generic name is derived from the Latinized form of an old Greek plant used by Aristotle around Sparta and Troy. The Greek word, meli, means honey, and lotus is a kind of wild clover. This species is a favorite of honeybees.

 

rabbit foot crazyweedRABBIT-FOOT CRAZYWEED Oxytropis lagopus This small, tufted plant usually is covered with fine silky hairs. Lambert's crazyweed (0. lambertii), a Great Plains species, is very similar in appearance. The distinguishing characteristic, however, is in the attachment of the silky hairs. Lambert's has hairs attached by their middle to a short stalk, while rabbit-foot has basally attached hairs. The bright rose-purple, pealike flowers form dense racemes borne at the ends of leafless stalks. The leaves are pinnately divided into paired lanceolate leaflets. HABITAT/RANGE: This species typically occurs on well-drained sandy or gravelly soils of sagebrush plains to lower-mountain elevations. It is distributed from Idaho to Montana and south to Wyoming. Blooms mid-April to August. FACTS/USES: The generic name is derived from the Greek words, oxus, meaning sharp, and tropis, for keel, and refers to the sharp beak at the tip of the lowest two united petals, or keel, of the flower.

 

silk crazyweedSILKY CRAZYWEED Oxytropis sericea Crazyweeds resemble many species of locoweeds (Astragalus). They usually can be distinguished by their lack of stem leaves. This species is a perennial forb that arises three to 16 inches from a deep, woody taproot. White to yellowish pealike flowers are clustered in spikes at the ends of leafless, flowering stalks. The grayish-hairy leaves are basal, usually ascending from the rooterown, and are pinnately divided into paired lanceolate leaflets. The fruit is a fleshy pod, which becomes hardened and bonyasitmatures. HABITAT/RANGE: It has a wide variety of habitats, from prairies to subalpine meadows and ridges. Silky crazyweed is distributed from British Columbia to central Idaho, northern Wyoming, south to Texas, New Mexico and Nevada. Blooms May to September. FACTS/USES: The specific name means silky. Extensive grazing of this species induces a chronic poisoning called locoism.

 

mountain golden peaMOUNTAIN GOLDEN-PEA Thermopsis montana Mountain golden-pea is a perennial herb that ascends one to three feet from woody, creeping, underground rootstocks. The brilliant yellow, pealike flowers are borne in a dense, clustered raceme. The leaves are stalked and divided into three leaflets. A large, leaflike bract, or stipule, is at the base of each leafstalk. After the flowers mature, a one- to three-inch, dark-colored and densely hairy seed pod develops. A closely related species, (T. rhombifolia), is very similar but does not grow as large and the seed pods generally curve into a ring. HABITAT/RANGE: Golden-pea grows in relatively dry soils but does best in moist bottomlands with rich loam soils of the montane zone. Ranges from Washington to Montana and south to New Mexico and northern California. Flowers late spring and early summer. FACTS/USES: The specific name means pertaining to the mountains.

 

longstalk cloverLONGSTALK CLOVER Trifolium longipes This perennial herb ascends four to 12 inches and often is rhizomatous. Dense flower heads are borne on long stalks, which droop as the flowers age. The purple, pink or yellowish flower heads are composed of small pealike flowers about half an inch long. The leaves are palmately divided into three narrow leaflets one-half inch to three inches long. HABITAT/ RANGE: Longstalk clover typically occurs in moist soils of wet meadows and along streams of lower montane valleys and meadows to subalpine slopes. It is distributed from Washington to Montana, south to New Mexico and California. Blooms late spring to midsummer. FACTS/USES: The specific name means long-stalked. Steeping the dried flower heads in hot water for a few minutes makes a flavorful and tonic tea. Other uses include medicinal use of the dried flowers for whooping cough and ulcers and use of the seeds for bread.

 

big head cloverBIG-HEAD CLOVER Trifolium macrocephalum Big-head clover is a very low-growing clover with distinctive, large, round heads of deep pink and yellowish two-toned flowers. The flowers are one to two inches in diameter and are borne on the ends of slender, stout, three- to 10-inch stems. The leaves are palmately compound, with three to nine leaflets, which are oval-shaped, thick and have toothed margins. HABITAT/RANGE: Big-head clover prefers rocky soils of sagebrush deserts to ponderosa-pine woodlands. Distributed from central Washington to western Idaho and south to Nevada and east-central California, it flowers late April to June. FACTS/USES: The specific name means bearing large heads. The clovers can be eaten raw but are difficult to digest and can cause bloat. When cooked or soaked in saltwater for several hours, they can be eaten in quantity and are very nutritious and high in protein.

 

red cloverRED CLOVER Trifolium pratense Red clover is a perennial herb that lacks rootstocks and grows one to three feet tall. It has trifoliate leaves with broad, oval leaflets. The flowers are in heads or spikes and are composed of 50 to 200 small, pealike flowers varying from pink to purple. Bees are attracted to the red color and the fragrant blossoms, and clovers have an economic importance in the honey industry. The seed pods are small and usually contain a single, small, kidney-shaped seed. HABITAT/RANGE: Red clover often is found along roadsides, fields, fences and other disturbed sites of lowland to mid-montane elevations. Introduced from Europe, it has established itself throughout North America. Blooms throughout summer. FACTS/USES: The generic name means three-leaved. The specific name means of the meadows, referring to its preferred habitat. This species is the state flower of Vermont.

 

american vetchAMERICAN VETCH Vicia americana A smooth, trailing, or climbing perennial herb with three to nine pealike, bluish-purple flowers in a one-sided, loose raceme that originates from the axils of the leaves. The leaves are pinnately divided into eight to 14 hairless, oval or elliptic leaflets with the terminal leaflet developed into a tendril. The fruit is a hairless, two- to several-seeded, up to two-inch-long pod. HABITAT/RANGE: American vetch prefers rich, moist, clayey soils of plains and foothills to aspen belts, especially open, timbered areas with grassy meadows. This is a widespread native plant distributed from Alaska to Ontario, south to West Virginia, Missouri, Mexico and California. Flowers June to early August. FACTS/USES: The specific name means American and refers both to its wide distribution and the fact that it is the best-known of the native vetches. Like other legumes, this species possesses nodules containing nitrogen-fixing bacteria on the roots.

 

 


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