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Canada Milkvetch, Little Rattlepod - Astragalus canadensis


Family: Fabaceae - Pea family Genus Common Name: Milkvetch Native Status: Native
Astragalus canadensis - Canada Milkvetch, Little Rattlepod. The Astragalus - Milkvetch - genus is huge with over 2300 species worldwide and more than 400 species in the United States. I have photographed a couple of Milkvetches in Idaho, but with over 60 candidate species in Idaho, identification to the species was intimidating. I had almost decided just to publish a genus page rather than a species page when I heard about the general location of the plant presented on this page. Since there are only three Astragalus species known in Georgia, and two of those are in the coastal plains, confirming the identity of this one by location - there is only one location in Georgia where has been found - and using other attributes only for confirmation became rather easy. Astragalus canadensis is one of the more widespread species of Milkvetch, being found in open woods and riverbanks throughout most of the United States except New England, Florida, and Arizona. It is also found in most of its namesake country, Canada.

Found in:
AL, AR, CA, CO, CT, DC, GA, IA, ID, IL, IN, KS, KY, LA, MD, MI, MN, MO, MS, MT, NC, ND, NE, NJ, NM, NV, NY, OH, OK, OR, PA, SC, SD, TN, TX, UT, VA, VT, WA, WI, WV, WY

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Astragalus canadensis

Distribution of Astragalus canadensis in the United States and Canada:
USDA Plants Distribution Map temporarily unavailable.
Blue=Native; Grey=Introduced

Map from USDA Plants Database:
USDA, NRCS. 2009. The PLANTS Database (http://plants.usda.gov, 23 Feb 2017). National Plant Data Center, Baton Rouge, LA 70874-4490 USA.

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Site: Dade County, GA Date: 2014-June-21Photographer: Gerald C. Williamson
Nikon D7000
Tamron SP 90MM f/2.8 AF Macro
The inflorescence of Canada Milkvetch is a many-flowered raceme terminating the branches. I originally thought the common name Milkvetch was due to the white to creamy yellow color of the flowers (which may be true) but have subsequently discovered some Astragalus species have flowers of other colors. There is also a story that milk vetches could increase milk production in goats and cattle. However, some Astragalus are poisonous to animals.
Astragalus canadensis

Site: Dade County, GA Date: 2014-June-21Photographer: Gerald C Williamson
Nikon D7000
The flowers of Astragalus canadensis are white to pale yellow, and have the definite pea-like shape. The green hue of these photos are because the inflorescences are relatively young, and they were photographed in the shade of the forest through which the road ran.
Click on the photo for a larger image
Astragalus canadensis

Site: Dade County, GA Date: 2014-June-21Photographer: Gerald C Williamson
Nikon D7000
Astragalus canadensis grows up to 6 feet tall. While the stem is pubescent, the plant is much less hairy than many other members of the genus such as Astragalus tennessensis, which has an overlapping range with Canada Milkvetch.
Click on the photo for a larger image
Astragalus canadensis

Site: Dade County, GA Date: 2014-June-21Photographer: Gerald C Williamson
Nikon D7000
The leaves of Canada Milkvetch are pinnately compound with 13 to 29 oblong leaflets that are up to about 1.25 inches long.
Click on the photo for a larger image
Astragalus canadensis

References used for identification and information:

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All content except USDA Plants Database map Copyright Gerald C. Williamson 2017
Photographs Copyright owned by the named photographer