Astragalus crassicarpus (Ground Plum)

Plant Info
Also known as: Prairie Plum, Groundplum Milkvetch, Buffalo Bean
Family:Fabaceae (Pea)
Life cycle:perennial
Habitat:sun; dry prairies
Bloom season:April - May
Plant height:4 to 24 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: raceme

[photo of flowers] Racemes of 5 to 15 pea-shaped flowers. Flowers are about ¾ inch long with an erect broad egg-shaped upper petal, notched at the tip, and 2 small lower petals that are mostly horizontal. The tubular calyx holding the flower is purple tinged with several prong-like appendages at the tip end. Flower color ranges from pinkish purple to lavender to blue-violet. A plant has several to many clusters on stalks up to 4 inches long arising from the leaf axils.

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

[photo of leaves] Leaves are compound in groups of 15 to 29. Leaflets are about 1/3 to ½ inch long, less than ¼ inch wide, generally elliptic with a pointed or blunt tip, hairy to varying degrees on both sides. Stems are hairy, sprawling along the ground and rising at the tip end (decumbent).

Fruit: Fruit type: capsule/pod

[photo of fruit] Fruit is a smooth round pod ½ to 1 inch across that ripens to purple, and resembles a plum.

[photo of fruit] Inside are 1/8-inch, somewhat kidney shaped black seeds.


Both the Dakota and Lakota ate the Ground Plum fruit, but you should never eat wild plants unless you know what you are doing and have a positive ID. Many species in the legume family are toxic.

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More photos

Photos by K. Chayka taken at Grey Cloud Dunes SNA, Washington county. Photos courtesy Peter M. Dziuk taken in Dakota and Washington counties.


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

Posted by: Larry - Golden Valley
on: 2013-09-01 21:12:35

I saw a group of these plants at the Rapids Lake Unit of MRVAC. They were in a sunny area of a dry, gravel slope.

Posted by: Brian - St. Peter
on: 2014-06-11 23:33:50

I and a botanizing friend saw a nice concentration of these earlier today (June 11, 2014) at the Ottawa Bluffs TNC preserve in Le Sueur County. They were in fruit.

Posted by: Karen - Red Wing
on: 2015-06-11 08:07:36

These were all along the hiking trails on the top of Barn Bluff. Created a lot of interest among hikers asking each other when they passed if they knew what they were.

Posted by: Steve P - Lost Valley SNA
on: 2017-06-03 15:28:42

These can be found in multiple locations. The common denominator for the location seems to be on the slopes of the hills. The surrounding vegetation is short and no more than a foot or so except for the scattered grasses. I find them blooming in April and may. The fruits are tasty and taste like peas.

Posted by: Rayliene C - South Dakota, Custer
on: 2017-06-18 23:35:04

I have found two bunches of these growing in my back field, I have taken pictures if you would like to see.

Posted by: Ruth - Central
on: 2017-09-12 14:33:56

Would this be appropriate for a city boulevard where I can't get decent grass to grow?

Posted by: Don Gustafson - Nine Mile Creek, Bloomington, MN
on: 2019-01-21 13:33:41

On bluff overlooking Nine Mile Creek. Besides Ground Plum, Pasque and Paccoon bloom there too.

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