Astragalus cicer (Chickpea Milk-vetch)

Plant Info
Also known as: Cicer Milkvetch
Family:Fabaceae (Pea)
Life cycle:perennial
Habitat:part shade, sun; moist soil; disturbed areas
Bloom season:June - August
Plant height:12 to 30 inches
Wetland Indicator Status:none
MN county distribution (click map to enlarge):Minnesota county distribution map
National distribution (click map to enlarge):National distribution map

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Detailed Information

Flower: Flower shape: irregular Cluster type: spike

[photo of flowers] Dense spike-like clusters ¾ to 2½ inches long of pea-shaped flowers on a long smooth stalk arising from leaf axils. Flowers are 1/3 to ½ inch long, creamy white, the upper petal about twice as long as the lower. The tubular calyx holding the flower has several dark green prongs at the tip end, and is usually hairy.

Leaves and stem: Leaf attachment: alternate Leaf type: compound

[photo of leaves] Leaves are compound in groups of 17 to 29. Leaflets are oval to egg-shaped, 1/3 to 1½ inches long, 1/8 to ¾ inch wide, becoming smaller towards the leaf tip, with pointed or blunt tips. Stems are hairless, ridged, and fairly weak; they may be erect but are more often sprawling, creating dense tangled mats.

Fruit: Fruit type: capsule/pod

[photo of fruit] Fruit is a 2-sectioned pod, oval to egg-shaped, about ½ inch long and densely covered in soft hairs. The remains of the style forms a tail at the top. The pod becomes more stiff and leathery as the seed ripens.


The flowers of Chickpea Milk-vetch are very similar to the native Wild Licorice (Glycyrrhiza lepidota), which does not sprawl or form dense mats and has fruit covered in distinctly hooked hairs. Chickpea Milk-vetch is a relatively new weed in Minnesota. Like its relative Crown Vetch, it has been promoted as a good plant for erosion control due to its dense root system (didn't we learn anything from Crown Vetch?) and also as a forage crop. Also like Crown Vetch, it has a tendancy to escape into areas where it is not wanted, though it is not as widely established as Crown Vetch, at least not yet (maybe we did not learn anything after all...). I have no doubt it is highly under-reported in Minnesota. It is actively marketed but should not be sold or planted here. The principle reason non-natives like A. cicer are promoted over natives is because they do not suffer from the insect/herbivore complexes that control populations naturally, but that is precisely what allows them to become invasive.

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More photos

Photos by K. Chayka taken at Vadnais/Snail Lake Regional Park, Shoreview. Photos courtesy Peter M. Dziuk taken at a planting at a storm water retention pond at the corner of Old Highway 8 and Highway 96 in New Brighton, Ramsey County.


Have you seen this plant in Minnesota, or have any other comments about it?

Posted by: Ric - White Earth Township, Becker Co.
on: 2011-07-17 08:16:43

On a WPA

Posted by: Victoria - Shakopee, Scott County, Minnesota
on: 2011-07-28 15:12:53

Observed in a constructed stormwater basin in Shakopee, Scott County, Minnesota. New county record (third non-native one for this stormwater basin).

Posted by: Therese - Old Mill State Park
on: 2015-06-27 16:00:59

June 27, 2015 - We saw this specimen and were unsure what it was, though it resembles a pea. I took a photo to compare, and am grateful for this website.

Posted by: Ian L - St. Paul
on: 2017-07-05 20:17:05

Observed in a conservation easement in Big Stone County.

Posted by: Rhett Johnson - Windom
on: 2019-05-14 16:55:03

I've seen Astragalus cicer at Rydell NWR in Polk County and at Agassiz NWR in Marshall County. At both locations it was invasive and dominated roadsides.

Posted by: Liz Beery - Big Stone County
on: 2020-06-29 07:56:42

Found on adjacent WMA and WPA in Big Stone County. Large patches similar to crown vetch.

Posted by: Davis - Stonemill farm, woodbury
on: 2020-07-17 09:50:14

Patches in storm water basins in Woodbury. Intermixed with crown vetch.

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