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Botanical Name : Astragalus crassicarpus
Synonyms : A. caryocarpus. Ker-Gawl. A. mexicanus. A. succulentus. Geoprumnon succulentum.
Common Names: Ground Plum, Groundplum milkvetch
Habitat :Astragalus crassicarpus is native Western N. America – Eastern Rocky mountains and eastward to Nebraska.It grows on prairies and plains.
Astragalus crassicarpus is a perennial herb growing to 0.5 m (1ft 8in). It’s 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).
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.
The fruit is a smooth round pod ½ to 1 inch across that ripens to purple, and resembles a plum. Inside are 1/8-inch, somewhat kidney shaped black seeds.
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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.
Requires a dry well-drained soil in a sunny position. Plants are intolerant of root disturbance and are best planted in their final positions whilst still small. The stems are sometimes prostrate. This species is somewhat polymorphic and is separated into a number of distinct species by some botanists. The form sometimes known as A. mexicanus has larger seedpods than the type, up to 35mm in diameter. 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.
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.
The thick fleshy unripe seedpods, which resemble green plums, are eaten raw or cooked. They are highly esteemed. The pods are about 25mm in diameter.
A compound decoction or infusion of the root has been used to treat fits and convulsions and has been used on bleeding wounds. It has also been taken or used externally as a stimulant.
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.