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Click to read about the Astragalus genus.

Astragalus mollissimus

Astragalus mollissimus

Astragalus mollissimus

Astragalus mollissimus

Astragalus mollissimus

Astragalus mollissimus variety thompsoniae (Locoweed)
Fabaceae (Pea Family)

Semi-desert. Woodlands, shrublands, openings. Spring.
Above & left: Canyons of the Ancients National Monument, April 22, 2016; April 18, 2014; April 22, 2015;
& April 1, 2005.

Astragalus mollissimus is the most widespread and common Astragalus in the Four Corners area.  It is characterized by hairy flower stems; numerous, hairy, small, light green leaves, usually arching; numerous, long and narrow pink-purple flowers that have a pronounced backward flare at the upper tip of the rather small banner; and by short, plump, silver and pink very hairy seeds often curled into a ball. 

Astragalus mollissimus blooms early in the spring and by mid-summer the hairy seeds are prominent.  Where you find one plant you will usually find several, even many, as the photograph immediately above shows.  Note that all of the three dozen Astragalus mollissimus shown are first year plants from seeds that received abundant fall rains in 2013.  

"Mollissimus" is Latin for "very soft".  "Locoweed" refers to the plant’s effect on grazing animals, especially sheep.  Many species in the Astragalus genus are called "Locoweed". They are also called "Vetch" and "Milkvetch"  Since their are over 60 species of Astragalus in the Four Corners area, one can understand that such over-used common names are of no use if you wish to identify the actual species you are looking at.

Edwin James collected the first specimen of this plant along the Platte River in 1820 and John Torrey described and named it in 1827.

Astragalus mollissimus
Astragalus mollissimus variety thompsoniae (Locoweed)
Fabaceae (Pea Family)

Semi-desert. Woodlands, shrublands, openings. Spring.
Canyons of the Ancients National Monument, April 1, 2005.

Astragalus mollissimus
Astragalus mollissimus variety thompsoniae (Locoweed)
Fabaceae (Pea Family)

Semi-desert. Woodlands, shrublands, openings. Spring.
Canyons of the Ancients National Monument, May 13, 2004.

Astragalus mollissimus seed pods ripen slowly and are quite hairy.

The arching leaves and numerous leaflets are a very soft sage green because of a coat of numerous hairs.

 
Astragalus mollissimus
Astragalus mollissimus variety thompsoniae (Locoweed)
Fabaceae (Pea Family)

Semi-desert. Woodlands, shrublands, openings. Spring.
Canyons of the Ancients National Monument, September 19, 2005.

On sandy soils, brown, dried Astragalus mollissimus seed pods are scattered around dead stems flattened on the ground.

Range map © John Kartesz,
Floristic Synthesis of North America

State Color Key

Species present in state and native
Species present in state and exotic
Species not present in state

County Color Key

Species present and not rare
Species present and rare
Species extirpated (historic)
Species extinct
Species noxious
Species exotic and present
Native species, but adventive in state
Questionable presence

Range map for Astragalus mollissimus