Host an Event Volunteer Join Tickets

Support the plant database you love!


Plant Database

Search for native plants by scientific name, common name or family. If you are not sure what you are looking for, try the Combination Search or our Recommended Species lists.

Enter a Plant Name:
Or you can choose a plant family:
Tephrosia virginiana (Goat's rue)
Smith, Sandy

Tephrosia virginiana

Tephrosia virginiana (L.) Pers.

Goat's Rue, Virginia Tephrosia, Devil's Shoestring

Fabaceae (Pea Family)

Synonym(s): Cracca latidens, Cracca virginiana, Tephrosia latidens, Tephrosia virginiana var. glabra, Tephrosia virginiana var. holosericea


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, Goat's Rue has long stringy roots, to which the common name Devil's 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 hair"s.


From the Image Gallery

14 photo(s) available in the Image Gallery

Plant Characteristics

Duration: Perennial
Habit: Herb
Leaf Arrangement: Alternate
Fruit Type: Legume
Size Notes: Up to about 2 feet tall.

Bloom Information

Bloom Color: Pink , Yellow
Bloom Time: Apr , May , Jun , Jul


USA: AL , AR , CT , DC , DE , FL , GA , IA , IL , IN , KS , KY , LA , MA , MD , MI , MN , MO , MS , NC , NE , NH , NJ , NY , OH , OK , PA , RI , SC , TN , TX , VA , WI , WV
Canada: ON
Native Distribution: S. NH to WV, s. MI & extreme s.e. MN, s. to FL, TX & KS
Native Habitat: Open woods; sandy fields; dunes

Growing Conditions

Light Requirement: Sun , Part Shade , Shade
Soil Moisture: Dry
Soil Description: Sandy soils.


Use 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


Description: 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: yes

From the National Organizations Directory

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

Mt. Cuba Center - Hockessin, DE


Bibref 946 - Gardening with Prairie Plants: How to Create Beautiful Native Landscapes (2002) Wasowski, Sally
Bibref 1294 - The Midwestern Native Garden: Native Alternatives to Nonnative Flowers and Plants An Illustrated Guide (2011) Adelman, Charlotte and Schwartz, Bernard L.
Bibref 1243 - The Southeastern Indians (1976) Hudson, Charles
Bibref 328 - Wildflowers of Texas (2003) Ajilvsgi, Geyata.

Search More Titles in Bibliography

Additional resources

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


Record Modified: 2015-03-20
Research By: TWC Staff

Go back