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Astragalus canadensis (Canadian milkvetch)
Cressler, Alan

Astragalus canadensis

Astragalus canadensis L.

Canadian Milkvetch, Canada Milkvetch, Milk Vetch

Fabaceae (Pea Family)


USDA Symbol: ASCA11

USDA Native Status: L48 (N), CAN (N)

This stout, erect-stemmed, often branched perennial grows 1-4 ft. tall. Leaves are pinnately-compound. Many whitish to pale yellow or greenish pea flowers hanging down slightly in dense racemes atop often clustered, leafy stems.

This was the first Astragalus from North America to be scientifically described. Representative of many species with white corollas, several notoriously poisonous, Canada Milk-vetch has toxic compounds but seems not to be a serious pest.


From the Image Gallery

9 photo(s) available in the Image Gallery

Plant Characteristics

Duration: Perennial
Habit: Herb
Root Type: Tap
Leaf Arrangement: Alternate
Leaf Complexity: Pinnate
Leaf Shape: Elliptic
Leaf Margin: Entire
Fruit Type: Legume
Size Notes: Up to about 4 feet tall.
Leaf: Green
Flower: Flowers 6 mm

Bloom Information

Bloom Color: White
Bloom Time: May , Jun , Jul


USA: 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
Canada: MB , ON , QC , SK
Native Distribution: S.w. Que. to Hudson Bay & B.C., s. to GA mts., TX, s.w. UT & n. CA
Native Habitat: Moist to dry prairies; stream banks; open woods

Growing Conditions

Water Use: Medium
Light Requirement: Sun , Part Shade
Soil Moisture: Dry , Wet
CaCO3 Tolerance: Low
Soil Description: Moist to mesic soils


Use Wildlife: Hummingbirds, Butterflies
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.
Conspicuous Flowers: yes
Attracts: Birds , Butterflies , Hummingbirds
Larval Host: Western Tailed Blue

Value to Beneficial Insects

Special Value to Native Bees
Special Value to Bumble Bees

This information was provided by the Pollinator Program at The Xerces Society for Invertebrate Conservation.


Description: Easily propagated by seed sown unstratified in fall or stratified in spring.
Seed Collection: Collect in October. Take care to collect pods before seeds are eaten by insects.
Seed Treatment: Scarification, inoculation, and moist stratification for 10 days.
Commercially Avail: yes

Find Seed or Plants

Find seed sources for this species at the Native Seed Network.

View propagation protocol from Native Plants Network.

National Wetland Indicator Status

This information is derived from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers National Wetland Plant List, Version 3.1 (Lichvar, R.W. 2013. The National Wetland Plant List: 2013 wetland ratings. Phytoneuron 2013-49: 1-241). Click here for map of regions.

From the National Organizations Directory

According to the species list provided by Affiliate Organizations, this plant is on display at the following locations:

Natural Biodiversity - Johnstown, PA
Native Seed Network - Corvallis, OR

Additional resources

USDA: Find Astragalus canadensis in USDA Plants
FNA: Find Astragalus canadensis in the Flora of North America (if available)
Google: Search Google for Astragalus canadensis


Record Modified: 2014-07-18
Research By: TWC Staff

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