Astragalus flexuosus (Slender Milkvetch)

Plant Info
Also known as: Flexile Milkvetch
Family:Fabaceae (Pea)
Life cycle:perennial
  • State Special Concern
Habitat:sun; sandy prairie, bluffs
Bloom season:June
Plant height:8 to 16 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] An erect raceme of 12 to 25 pinkish purple to whitish pea-like flowers, each 3/8 to 5/8 inch long on a very short hairy stalk. The upper hood is quite large and showy with white bars in the middle and base. The calyx tube is short, less than 1/8 inch with sharp triangular lobes and fine hairs. The central stalk is greenish gray from soft fine hairs and emerges from the upper leaf axils, growing up to 2½ inches long by the time fruit sets.

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

[photo of leaves] Leaves are alternate and compound, 2 to 3 inches long with 11 to 25 linear to oblong leaflets that are toothless, sometimes short-stalked, often folded in along the midrib with a rounded to squared off tip, sometimes notched, with short appressed hairs on the lower surface and two leafy stipules at the base of the stalk, connected freely at the base. Multiple stems up to 20 inches long form sprawling clumps with erect tips, silvery green in color from fine appressed hairs.

Fruit: Fruit type: capsule/pod

[photo of fruit] The fruit is a slender pea pod ½ to 1 inch long, green with reddish specks or streaks and short, appressed hairs. Pods spread out or hang pendulum like from the stalk


Astragalus flexuosus was likely never widespread in Minnesota, which is at the very eastern edge of its range. Preferring sandy soils or rocky hilltops and bluffs, over 99% of its habitat has been destroyed by agriculture, if not crops then by grazing. Gravel mining and encroachment of red cedar, once controlled by frequent fire, also threaten it today. According to the DNR, it was listed as a Special Concern species in 1984. There are 3 varieties in North America, with var. flexuosus found in Minnesota.

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More photos

Photos courtesy Peter M. Dziuk taken in Chippewa County.


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

Posted by: Theresa - Hugo
on: 2014-06-03 11:09:54

The plants are numerous in grassy area behind my home. Very pretty!

Posted by: Brenda P - Rural Faribault
on: 2017-01-09 21:20:10

I think these are growing in my asparagus bed... I spread some wildflower seed in there to be able to better identify plants as they came in, though lost the sheet that came with the seeds. I have photos if you're interested.

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