Name: Hillside Milkvetch
Scientific Name: Astragalus collinus
This week’s plant is a somewhat attractive plant in the pea family, also known as the bean or legume family. It is found from south-central British Colulmbia through eastern Washington, and in northeast Oregon and west-central Idaho.
The genus name Astragalus is thought to be from an ancient Greek name for some legume plant. The Latin collinus means of the hills or growing on hills. This species, collinus, has two varieties. The one most common and most widely distributed is variety collinus. The other variety is laurentii, which has been found in southern areas of Umatilla, Morrow, and Gilliam counties. The two varieties look much alike. The more common variety, collinus, has fruit pods that are straight or slightly curved, and the variety laurentii has pods curved into a moon-like crescent.
The Hillside Milkvetch grows in dense clumps about a foot high or less, and are rather showy. The plant is a perennial, and older, larger plants can be up to 2 feet across. The flowers droop downward from erect flower stems that reach well above the leaves. All the leaves are attached to the main stem at or near the base of the plant, and are a one-half inch to 3 inches long and divided into 11 to 25 oblong leaflets.
I am not aware of any particular use attributed to the plant.
Where to find: Hillside Milkvetch is in full bloom now on open grassy slopes around the Pendleton area. It is primarily in lowlands and I’d expect it to be in the Blues at low elevations though I haven’t seen it there. It can be spotted fairly easily by the pale yellow color of the flowers.