Tom's Blog

Monday, July 7, 2008

Canada milk vetch in flower

Canada milk vetch (Astragalus canadensis) is a widely planted prairie/savanna species that has an interesting spreading growth form. It grows well in the Pleasant Valley Conservancy planted prairies, but even better in our savannas. It has the characteristic leaf structure and flower of a legume.

According to one site I saw, this species has poisonous components, and toxic milk may be produced by an animal that eats this plant. However, it is apparently widely eaten by native animals such as deer.

Although it is found in almost every state, it is listed as threatened in a few states, including Michigan. In Wisconsin it is found mainly in the southern and western part of the state. Its coefficient of conservatism is 8, a relatively high number.

Superficial observation might confuse this species with a vetch of the genus Vicia, but the vetches are climbing viney plants whereas milk vetch grows as a semi-erect plant without tendrils.


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