Astragalus canadensis

Botanical Name: Astragalus canadensis
Family: Fabaceae
Genus: Astragalus
Species: A. canadensis
Kingdom: Plantae
Order: Fabales

Synonyms: Astragalus carolinianus. L.
Common Names : Canadian Milkvetch, Shorttooth Canadian milkvetch, Morton’s Canadian milkvetch
Habitat: Astragalus canadensis is native to Central and eastern N. America – Quebec to Saskatchewan, New York, Louisiana, Nebraska and Utah. IIt grows on shores and rich thickets. Rocky and sandy thickets in Texas.

Description:
Astragalus canadensis is a perennial herb growing to 1 m (3ft 3in). It sends out several thin, erect, green stems, bearing leaves that are actually made up of pairs of leaflets, each leaflet up to 3 centimeters in length. It has inflorescences of tubular, greenish-white flowers which yield beanlike fruits within pods that rattle when dry.

Pagoda-like towers of creamy yellow flowers rise above the dark green leaves in mid-summer, followed by scepters of bead-like seed pods in August. This striking member of the Pea family is an important food for birds, as it retains its seed late into the fall and early winter.

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The flowers are hermaphrodite (have both male and female organs) and are pollinated by Bees, lepidoptera.It can fix Nitrogen.
Suitable for: light (sandy) and medium (loamy) soils and prefers well-drained soil. Suitable pH: acid, neutral and basic (alkaline) soils. It cannot grow in the shade. It prefers dry soil.

Cultivation:
Requires a dry well-drained soil in a sunny position. This species is not hardy in the colder areas of the country, it tolerates temperatures down to between -5 and -10°c. Plants are intolerant of root disturbance and are best planted in their final positions whilst still small. This species has a symbiotic relationship with certain soil bacteria, these bacteria form nodules on the roots and fix atmospheric nitrogen. Some of this nitrogen is utilized by the growing plant but some can also be used by other plants growing nearby. Many members of this genus can be difficult to grow, this may be due partly to a lack of their specific bacterial associations in the soil.

Propagation:
Seed – best sown as soon as it is ripe in a cold frame. A period of cold stratification may help stored seed to germinate. Stored seed, and perhaps also fresh seed, should be pre-soaked for 24 hours in hot water before sowing – but make sure that you do not cook the seed. Any seed that does not swell should be carefully pricked with a needle, taking care not to damage the embryo, and re-soaked for a further 24 hours. Germination can be slow and erratic but is usually within 4 – 9 weeks or more at 13°c if the seed is treated or sown fresh. As soon as it is large enough to handle, prick the seedlings out into individual pots and grow them on in the greenhouse for their first winter, planting them out into their permanent positions in late spring or early summer, after the last expected frosts.

Edible Uses:

Root – raw or boiled. They were often used in a broth. The roots are gathered in spring or autumn. Some caution is advised, if the root is bitter it could be due to the presence of toxic alkaloids.
Medicinal Uses:
The root is analgesic and antihaemorrhagic. It can be chewed or used as a tea to treat chest and back pains, coughs and the spitting up of blood. A decoction of the root is used as a febrifuge for children. A poultice made from the chewed root has been used to treat cuts

Known Hazards: Many members of this genus contain toxic glycosides. All species with edible seedpods can be distinguished by their fleshy round or oval seedpod that looks somewhat like a greengage. A number of species can also accumulate toxic levels of selenium when grown in soils that are relatively rich in that element.

Disclaimer : The information presented herein is intended for educational purposes only. Individual results may vary, and before using any supplement, it is always advisable to consult with your own health care provider.

Resources:
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Astragalus_canadensis
http://www.pfaf.org/user/Plant.aspx?LatinName=Astragalus+canadensis
http://www.prairienursery.com/store/native-wildflowers/canada-milk-vetch-seed-astragalus-canadensis#.V-3m8ySvE2w

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