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Flaigg, Norman G.
Tephrosia virginiana (L.) Pers.
Goat's rue, Virginia tephrosia, Devil's shoestring
Synonym(s): Cracca latidens, Cracca virginiana, Tephrosia latidens, Tephrosia virginiana var. glabra, Tephrosia virginiana var. holosericea
USDA Symbol: tevi
USDA Native Status: L48 (N), CAN (N)
The flowers of goat’s-rue resemble bi-colored sweet peas. Lower petals are pink; upper petals are pale yellow. Pinnately compound leaves have 8-15 pairs of leaflets. Stems and leaves are covered with soft, white hairs giving the 1-2 ft. perennial a silvery appearance. Mature plants form attractive mounds. Bicolored, pea-like flowers, with pink wings and a yellow standard, crowded into clusters atop a hairy stem.
A distinctively silvery plant, Goats Rue has long stringy roots, to which the common name Devils Shoestrings refers. It was at one time fed to goats to increase their milk production, but since it contains rotenone (now used as an insecticide and fish poison), this practice has been discontinued. In the South, several white-flowering species occur (T. spicata, T. chrysophylla, etc.) with fewer flowers per cluster on the tips of long stalks. These flowers eventually turn pink, and the foliage is often distinctive because of brownish or golden hairs.
Plant CharacteristicsDuration: Perennial Habit: Herb Flower:
Fruit: Size Class:
Bloom InformationBloom Color: Pink , Yellow
Bloom Time: Apr , May , Jun , Jul
, WV Canada: ON Native Distribution:
& extreme s.e. MN,
s. to FL, TX
& KS Native Habitat:
Open woods; sandy fields; dunes
Growing ConditionsLight Requirement: Sun , Part Shade , Shade
Soil Moisture: Dry
Soil Description: Sandy soils.
BenefitUse Wildlife: Attracts ground birds.
Use Other: Pounded roots used as a fish poison by indigenous people of southeastern North America.
Warning: POISONOUS PARTS: All parts. Low toxicity if eaten. Symptoms unknown. Toxic Principle: Tephrosin.
It contains rotenone, which is now used as an insecticide and fish poison. (Niering)
Conspicuous Flowers: yes
Propagate by seed sown unstratified in fall or stratified in spring. Seed Collection:
Collect in Aug. to Sep. Fruit
is a narrow pod
that is difficult to break. Seed Treatment:
Scarification, inoculation, moist stratification for 10 days. Commercially Avail:
From the National Organizations Directory
According to the species list provided by Affiliate Organizations, this plant is either on display or available from the following:
Mt. Cuba Center
- Hockessin, DE
Record Last Modified: 2012-12-09
Research By: TWC Staff