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Freckled Milk-vetch Astragalus lentiginosus


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Freckled Milkvetch - fruits, flower, leaves
credit: Stan Shebs/CCSA

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Family: Fabaceae, Pea view all from this family

Description Highly variable species, forming dense tufted mats.
Habit: native; annual, biennial, or perennial; herb, subshrub, or shrub; spreading to upright, hairless or silver-hairy, .
Height: 4-16 in (10-40 cm).
Leaf: alternate, odd-pinnate, arching, linear to broadly oval, to 6 in (15 cm) long; 11-19 leaflets, linear to widely ovate, edges curved up, 0.4-0.6 in (10-15 mm) long.
Flower: purple to cream to white, sometimes mixed, 0.4-0.75 in (10-19 mm) tall; in stalked, upright or spreading cluster of 3-50 flowerheads.
Fruit: inflated pod with 2 chambers, red-mottled, leathery or paper-y, straight or somewhat curved, with long curved beak.

Endangered Status The Coachella Valley Milk-vetch and the Fish Slough Milk-vetch, subspecies of the Freckled Milk-vetch, are on the U.S. Endangered Species List. They are classified as endangered in California. The population boom in the Coachella Valley has threatened their habitats with development projects aimed at easing the demands of urban centers. Not only are the current numbers of these plant threatened, so are their future populations.

Warning All plants in the genus Astragalus are potentially toxic to humans and animals if ingested, causing a disorder called locoism. The milk from an animal that has ingested Astragalus plants may also be toxic. Sensitivity to a toxin varies with a personís age, weight, physical condition, and individual susceptibility. Children are most vulnerable because of their curiosity and small size. Toxicity can vary in a plant according to season, the plantís different parts, and its stage of growth; and plants can absorb toxic substances, such as herbicides, pesticides, and pollutants from the water, air, and soil.

Flower Early spring.

Habitat Open, dry sites at low to moderate elevations.

Range Native to western North America, from British Columbia south to California, east to Texas, northwest to Colorado and Montana.

Discussion Also called spotted locoweed. 36 varieties are recognized, with more proposed, making this the most taxon rich species in the U.S. Different varieties are protected by the U.S., California, and Nevada.