Sunday, March 24, 2024

Bearded Milkvetch - Astragalus villosus

Photo by Steve Coleman

 Two photos above by Floyd Griffith

Bearded milkvetch (Astragalus villosus) is an annual member of the legume family and one of two milkvetches native to Florida.  I have written about the other (A. obcordatus) previously.  Unlike A. obcordatus which has a very limited range in Florida and the Southeast, bearded milkvetch is widespread throughout the Florida Panhandle and the northern peninsula in open well-drained habitats - often those that are somewhat disturbed such as roadsides and pastures.  This is a component of the Southeastern flora and also is found in Alabama, Georgia and South Carolina.  

Bearded milkvetch forms a taproot in late winter and then forms numerous prostrate stiff stems that spread outward in all directions for about 3 feet.  The compound leaves are composed of 10 or more rounded leaflets without a noticeable notch at the tip.  Both the stems and the leaves are covered by villous to hispid hairs.  There also are noticeable stipules at the base of each leaf.

Flowering occurs in the spring.  Clusters of lemon yellow blooms are formed at the tips of each branch, though they can appear much paler than those in the photos above.  Like most members of the bean/pea family they are composed of a noticeable keel above a fused lip.  The calyx immediately below the petals is hairy as well.

Milkvetches are important nitrogen fixers and are pollinated mostly by big-bodied bees.  Although many legumes serve as host plants for butterflies such as the long-tailed skipper, I can find no record of them using this genus and no record that this species has been used in herbal medicine.

Although this is an attractive and useful wildflower, I also could find no records of it being offered for sale either as seed or plants.  As a short-lived annual it would have limited use as a landscape plant, but a nice addition to a larger restoration planting in the right growing conditions.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Please let me know if this site and the various postings have been useful to you.