Astragalus is a large genus of over 3,000 species[1] of herbs and small shrubs, belonging to the legume family Fabaceae and the subfamily Faboideae. It is the largest genus of plants in terms of described species.[2] The genus is native to temperate regions of the Northern Hemisphere. Common names include milkvetch (most species), locoweed (in North America, some species)[3] and goat's-thorn (A. gummifer, A. tragacanthus). Some pale-flowered vetches (Vicia spp.) are similar in appearance, but they are more vine-like than Astragalus.

Borrego Milkvetch up close
A. lentiginosus
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Plantae
Clade: Angiosperms
Clade: Eudicots
Clade: Rosids
Order: Fabales
Family: Fabaceae
Subfamily: Faboideae
Tribe: Galegeae
Subtribe: Astragalinae
Genus: Astragalus
Type species
Astragalus onobrychis

Over 3,000 species, see List of Astragalus species

  • Acanthophaca Nevski
  • Aragallus Neck. ex Greene
  • Astenolobium Nevski
  • Astracantha Podlech
  • Atelophragma Rydb.
  • Barnebyella Podlech
  • Batidophaca Rydb.
  • Biserrula L.[Note 1]
  • Brachyphragma Rydb.
  • Cnemidophacos Rydb.
  • Contortuplicata Medik.
  • Cryptorrhynchus Nevski
  • Ctenophyllum Rydb.
  • Cystium Steven
  • Didymopelta Regel & Schmalh.
  • Diholcos Rydb.
  • Diplotheca Hochst.
  • Erophaca Boiss.[Note 1]
  • Geoprumnon Rydb.
  • Gynophoraria Rydb.
  • Hamosa Medik.
  • Hedyphylla Steven
  • Hesperastragalus A. Heller
  • Hesperonix Rydb.
  • Holcophacos Rydb.
  • Homalobus Nutt.
  • Jonesiella Rydb.
  • Kentrophyta Nutt.
  • Kiapasia Woronow ex Grossh.
  • Lonchophaca Rydb.
  • Microphacos Rydb.
  • Myctirophora Nevski
  • Mystirophora Nevski
  • Neodielsia Harms
  • Oedicephalus Nevski
  • Onix Medik.
  • Orophaca (Torr. & A. Gray) Britton[Note 1]
  • Oxyglottis (Bunge) Nevski
  • Phaca L.
  • Phacomene Rydb.
  • Phacopsis Rydb.
  • Phyllolobium Fisch. ex Spreng.[Note 1]
  • Pisophaca Rydb.
  • Podlechiella Maassoumi & Kaz. Osaloo[Note 1]
  • Poecilocarpus Nevski
  • Pterophacos Rydb.
  • Sewerzowia Regel & Schmalh.
  • Thium Steud.
  • Tragacantha Mill.
  • Xylophacos Rydb.
Astragalus hamosus MHNT.BOT.2007.40.117
Fruits and seeds of Astragalus hamosus


Milkvetch species include herbs and shrubs with pinnately compound leaves. There are annual and perennial species. The flowers are formed in clusters in a raceme, each flower typical of the legume family, with three types of petals: banner, wings, and keel. The calyx is tubular or bell-shaped.[4][5]


Astragalus species are used as food plants by the larvae of some Lepidoptera species including many case-bearing moths of the genus Coleophora: C. cartilaginella, C. colutella, C. euryaula, and C. onobrychiella feed exclusively on Astragalus, C. astragalella and C. gallipennella feed exclusively on the species Astragalus glycyphyllos, and C. hippodromica is limited to Astragalus gombo.


The genus was formally described in 1753 by Carl Linnaeus in his Species Plantarum.[6]

The name Astragalus is Greek, an old name for this group of plants which were believed to have a positive effect on goat milk production.[7]

Selected species

Astragalus testiculatus (in bloom) 2

Astragalus testiculatus

Astragalus dasyanthus habitus 1

Astragalus dasyanthus


Traditional medicine

Astragalus has been used in traditional Chinese medicine over centuries to treat various disorders, but there is no high-quality evidence it is effective or safe for any medical purpose.[9]

Phytochemicals and supplements

Extracts of astragalus root include diverse phytochemicals, such as saponins and isoflavone flavonoids, which are purported in traditional practices to increase lactation in nursing mothers.[10] There is no valid clinical evidence to indicate such use is effective or safe for the mother or infant.[10] Dietary supplement products containing astragalus extracts may not have been adequately tested for efficacy, safety, purity or consistency.[10] The root extracts of astragalus may be used in soups, teas or sold in capsules.[9]

Side effects and toxicology

Although astragalus supplements are generally well tolerated, mild gastrointestinal upset, diarrhea, and allergic reactions may occur.[9][10] Because astragalus may affect regulation of blood sugar and blood pressure, it may be risky for people with blood disorders, diabetes, or hypertension to use it as a supplement.[9] Astragalus may interact with prescribed drugs that suppress the immune system, such as medications used by people being treated for cancer or recovery from organ transplants.[9]

Some astragalus species can be toxic, such as those found in the United States containing the neurotoxin, swainsonine, which causes "locoweed" poisoning in animals.[9] Some astragalus species may contain high levels of selenium, possibly causing toxicity.[9]

Ornamental use

Several species, including A. alpinus (bluish-purple flowers), A. hypoglottis (purple flowers), and A. lotoides, are grown as ornamental plants in gardens.


  1. ^ a b c d e This may actually be a valid genus.


  1. ^ "Astragalus L." Plants of the World Online. Royal Botanical Gardens Kew. Retrieved 6 January 2019.
  2. ^ Frodin, David G. (2004). "History and Concepts of Big Plant Genera". Taxon. 53 (3): 753–76. doi:10.2307/4135449. JSTOR 4135449.
  3. ^ "Astragalus (Locoweed) flowers". Retrieved 2013-07-05.
  4. ^ Xu, Langran; Podlech, Dietrich. "Astragalus". Flora of China. 10. Retrieved 9 December 2018 – via, Missouri Botanical Garden, St. Louis, MO & Harvard University Herbaria, Cambridge, MA.
  5. ^ "A Guide to the Common Locoweeds and Milkvetches of New Mexico". New Mexico State University. Retrieved 9 December 2018.
  6. ^ "Astragalus L." International Plant Names Index. Retrieved 10 December 2018.
  7. ^ Wilhelm, Gerould; Rericha, Laura (2017). Flora of the Chicago Region: A Floristic and Ecological Synthesis. Indiana Academy of Sciences.
  8. ^ USDA, Agricultural Research Service, National Plant Germplasm System. 2018. Germplasm Resources Information Network (GRIN-Taxonomy). National Germplasm Resources Laboratory, Beltsville, Maryland Accessed 17 September 2018
  9. ^ a b c d e f g "Astragalus". National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health, US National Institutes of Health. 29 November 2016. Retrieved 1 July 2019.
  10. ^ a b c d "Astragalus". Drugs and Lactation Database (LactMed), National Library of Medicine, US National Institutes of Health. 3 December 2018. PMID 30000951.

External links


Agnosphitys (; "unknown begetter"; sometimes mistakenly called Agnostiphys or Agnosphytis is a genus of silesaurid dinosauriform that lived during the Late Triassic. It contains only one species, the type species A. cromhallensis. Its remains include an ilium, maxilla, astragalus and humerus, which date variously from the Norian and Rhaetian stages of the Late Triassic.

The type species, Agnosphitys cromhallensis, was described by Nicholas Fraser, Kevin Padian, Gordon Walkden and A. L. M Davis in early 2002. The fossils, consisting of a partial skeleton including referred material, were found in Avon, England.


Astragalectomy, sometimes called a talectomy, is a surgical operation for removal of the talus bone (astragalus) for stabilization of the ankle.

Historically, an astragalectomy was used in cases of severe ankle trauma and congenial talipes equinovarus (clubfoot). It is no longer a common operation, but is still used in cases of a deformed calcaneus, foot paralysis following poliomyelitis, and rigid clubfoot deformities that are secondary to spina bifida or arthrogryposis (AMC). The surgery is also performed in severe cases of pulverized or infected open fractures.

Generally, the surgical procedure involves making an anterolateral incision, stripping the ligaments from both malleoli and the calcaneus so that the foot can be displaced posteriorly. The talus is then resected, and the foot is placed so that the lateral malleolus rests opposite the calcaneocuboid joint, and the medial malleolus lies just above and behind the navicular bone. The foot is held in place with a surgical pin or with Kirschner wire. After the operation, the patient wears an above-knee cast for six weeks, followed by a below-knee cast for eighteen weeks.

Astragalus alpinus

Astragalus alpinus is a species of flowering plant in the legume family known by the common name alpine milkvetch. It has a circumpolar distribution, occurring throughout the upper latitudes of the Northern Hemisphere. It is widespread in Eurasia. In North America it occurs from Alaska to Newfoundland and as far south as Nevada and New Mexico.This plant is variable in appearance. In general, it is a perennial herb growing from a taproot and rhizome network topped with an underground caudex. The roots have nitrogen-fixing nodules. The aboveground stems are up to 30 centimeters long and are mostly decumbent, forming a mat. The leaves are up to 15 centimeters long and are made up of several pairs of leaflets each up to 2 centimeters long. The inflorescence is a raceme of up to 30 flowers each about a centimeter long. The flowers are purple or blue. The fruit is a legume pod up to 1.7 centimeters long which contains seeds.This plant grows in subalpine and alpine climates, often in moist areas, such as woodlands and meadows around streams and lakes. It also occurs on tundra and other cold, dry, exposed areas. It occurs on gravel bars and scree. It is sometimes a pioneer species, colonizing land in the primary phase of ecological succession, such as roads and bare land turned over during frost heave. It has been observed regrowing early in recently burned areas in Grand Teton National Park. It also grows in vegetated areas. Plants occurring in harsh conditions are smaller than those in more favorable sites.This plant species provides food for caribou, Arctic hares, greater snow geese, small blue butterflies, and grizzly bears.This species may be divided into two varieties, var. alpinus occurring in the Arctic and var. brunetianus occurring in northeastern North America at lower latitudes.

Astragalus canadensis

Astragalus canadensis is a common and widespread member of the milkvetch genus in the legume family, known commonly as Canadian milkvetch. The plant is found throughout Canada and the United States in many habitats including wetlands, woodlands, and prairies. 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.

Like other Astragalus species, A. canadensis is somewhat toxic, but it has been used medicinally by Native American groups such as the Blackfoot and Lakota people, particularly the roots.

Astragalus crassicarpus

Astragalus crassicarpus, known as ground plum or buffalo plum, is a perennial species of flowering plant in the legume family, Fabaceae, native to North America. It was described in 1813. The fruit is edible and was used by Native Americans as food and horse medicine. It is a host of afranius duskywing larvae. It is also known as groundplum milkvetch and pomme de prairie.

Astragalus glycyphyllos

Astragalus glycyphyllos (liquorice milkvetch, wild liquorice, wild licorice) is a flowering plant in the family Fabaceae, native to Europe. It is a perennial herbaceous plant which is sometimes used for tea.

Astragalus lentiginosus

Astragalus lentiginosus is a species of legume known by the common names spotted locoweed and freckled milkvetch. It is native to western North America, where it grows in many habitat types. There are a great number of wild varieties of this species, and they vary in appearance. The flower and the fruit of a given individual are generally needed to identify it down to the variety.

Astragalus propinquus

Astragalus propinquus (syn. Astragalus membranaceus, commonly known as Mongolian milkvetch in English and as huáng qí (Chinese: 黃芪), běi qí (Chinese: 北芪) or huáng huā huáng qí (Chinese: 黃花黃耆), in Chinese, is a flowering plant in the family Fabaceae. It is one of the 50 fundamental herbs used in traditional Chinese medicine. It is a perennial plant and it is not listed as being threatened.

Astragalus purshii

Astragalus purshii is a species of milkvetch known by the common names woollypod milkvetch and Pursh's milkvetch.


Calycosin is an O-methylated isoflavone. It can be isolated from Astragalus membranaceus Bge. var. mongholicus and Trifolium pratense L. (red clover).


A crurotarsal joint is one that’s situated between the bones of crus, i.e. shin (tibia and fibula) and the proximal tarsal bones, i.e. astragalus and calcaneum.

The ankle joint of therian mammals (marsupials and placentals) is a crurotarsal joint, with the main joint of ankle bending between the tibia and the astragalus; the calcaneum has no contact with the tibia but forms a heel to which muscles can attach.

A group of archosauriform diapsids, Crurotarsi (including living crocodilians and their extinct relatives) is named after specialized crurotarsal joint in the skeletons of the members of this group, located between their fibula and calcaneum, with a hemicylindrical condyle on the calcaneum articulating against fibula. This joint is present in the skeletons of suchians (including crocodilians) and phytosaurs, and was cited as one of the characters supporting uniting these two groups in a clade to the exclusion of avemetatarsalian archosaurs (birds and their extinct relatives). However, according to a study published in 2011, suchians are more closely related to Avemetatarsalia than to phytosaurs; there is, however, not enough information to find out whether the aforementioned crurotarsal joint evolved independently in suchians and in phytosaurs, or whether it was already present in the skeleton of their most recent common ancestor (and secondarily lost in avemetatarsalians).The ankle joint of pseudosuchians (including crocodilians) and phytosaurs, passing between the astragalus and calcaneum, is also called crurotarsal joint in the literature. In the skeletons of the phytosaurs and most of the pseudosuchians this joint bends around a peg on the astragalus which fits into a socket in the calcaneum (the “crocodile normal” tarsus); only in the skeletons of the ornithosuchid pseudosuchians a peg on the calcaneum fits into a socket in the astragalus (the “crocodile reversed” tarsus). Strictly speaking this ankle is not a crurotarsal joint in the previously discussed sense, as it's situated between the two proximal tarsal bones. However, while calcaneum is not fixed to the fibula, the astragalus is fixed to the tibia by a suture and thus in practice it functions as an extension of the crus.

Cushenbury, California

Cushenbury, California is an unincorporated place in San Bernardino County, California. It is located at the end of the Burlington Northern Santa Fe's Cushenbury Branch, and is 9 miles southeast of Lucerne Valley. The settlement is the site of a cement plant, opened by Kaiser Steel in 1957 and today run by the Mitsubishi Corporation. It lends its name to the Cushenbury milkvetch, the common name of Astragalus albens.


The Fabaceae or Leguminosae, commonly known as the legume, pea, or bean family, are a large and economically important family of flowering plants. It includes trees, shrubs, and perennial or annual herbaceous plants, which are easily recognized by their fruit (legume) and their compound, stipulate leaves. Many legumes have characteristic flowers and fruits. The family is widely distributed, and is the third-largest land plant family in number of species, behind only the Orchidaceae and Asteraceae, with about 751 genera and about 19,000 known species. The five largest of the genera are Astragalus (over 3,000 species), Acacia (over 1000 species), Indigofera (around 700 species), Crotalaria (around 700 species), and Mimosa (around 400 species), which constitute about a quarter of all legume species. The ca. 19,000 known legume species amount to about 7% of flowering plant species. Fabaceae is the most common family found in tropical rainforests and in dry forests in the Americas and Africa.Recent molecular and morphological evidence supports the fact that the Fabaceae is a single monophyletic family. This conclusion has been supported not only by the degree of interrelation shown by different groups within the family compared with that found among the Leguminosae and their closest relations, but also by all the recent phylogenetic studies based on DNA sequences. These studies confirm that the Fabaceae are a monophyletic group that is closely related to the families Polygalaceae, Surianaceae and Quillajaceae and that they belong to the order Fabales.Along with the cereals, some fruits and tropical roots, a number of Leguminosae have been a staple human food for millennia and their use is closely related to human evolution.The family Fabaceae includes a number of important agricultural and food plants, including Glycine max (soybean), Phaseolus (beans), Pisum sativum (pea), Cicer arietinum (chickpeas), Medicago sativa (alfalfa), Arachis hypogaea (peanut), Ceratonia siliqua (carob), and Glycyrrhiza glabra (liquorice). A number of species are also weedy pests in different parts of the world, including: Cytisus scoparius (broom), Robinia pseudoacacia (black locust), Ulex europaeus (gorse), Pueraria lobata (kudzu), and a number of Lupinus species.


Fosterovenator (meaning "Foster's hunter") is a genus of ceratosaur dinosaur known from the Late Jurassic Morrison Formation of Wyoming. The holotype is YPM VP 058267A, B, and C, a tibia with an articulated astragalus. An additional specimen is known, the paratype YPM VP 058267D, a fibula of a larger individual.

The holotype remains were in 1879 discovered by Arthur Lakes at Como Bluff, Wyoming, and consist of a nearly-complete right tibia with a co-ossified astragalus, probably of a juvenile. The paratype consists of a complete right fibula measuring 27.5 cm (10.8 in) in length and belonging to a much larger individual. The overall shape of the known material is similar to that of Elaphrosaurus. However, ceratosaurian affinities of Fosterovenator (at least of the paratype) have been questioned.

Foxhole Heath

Foxhole Heath is an 85.2 hectare biological Site of Special Scientific Interest east of Eriswell in Suffolk. It is a Nature Conservation Review site, Grade I, and part of Breckland Special Area of Conservation and Breckland Special Protection Area under the European Union Directive on the Conservation of Wild Birds.The site is heathland and its vascular plant flora includes the following species: Slender Cudweed Filago minima, Shepherds Cress Teesdalia nudicaulis, Bird's-foot, Ornithopus perpusillus, Sand Sedge Carex arenaria, Purple Milk Vetch Astragalus danicus, Common Centaury Centaurium erythraea, Sheep's-bit Jasione montana and Larger Wild Thyme Thymus pulegioides. There are three nationally rare plants. It has a breeding population of the rare Stone-curlew, and this species also uses the site to gather prior to its autumn migration.The road verge along the south side is included in Suffolk County Council's protected road verges scheme.There is access from the B1112 road.

List of endangered plants in North America

A list of endangered plants and lichens, including those on the United States' Endangered Species List.


Locoweed (also crazyweed and loco) is a common name in North America for any plant that produces swainsonine, a phytotoxin harmful to livestock. Worldwide, swainsonine is produced by a small number of species, most in three genera of the flowering plant family Fabaceae: Oxytropis and Astragalus in North America, and Swainsona in Australia. The term locoweed usually refers only to the North American species of Oxytropis and Astragalus, but this article includes the other species as well. Some references may list Datura stramonium as locoweed.Locoweed is relatively palatable to livestock, and some individual animals will seek it out. Livestock poisoned by chronic ingestion of large amounts of swainsonine develop a medical condition known as locoism (also swainsonine disease, swainsonine toxicosis, locoweed disease, and loco disease; North America) and pea struck (Australia). Locoism is reported most often in cattle, sheep, and horses, but has been reported also in elk and deer. It is the most widespread poisonous plant problem in the western United States. Agricultural Research Service and New Mexico State University scientists have been collaborating since 1990 to help solve the problem that locoweed presents to livestock farmers. The research involved identifying the fungal species that produces the locoweed toxins, pinpointing levels of toxicity in animals once they have ingested locoweed, observing the effects of locoweed toxins on livestock’s reproduction and grazing preferences, etc. Together, the scientists assembled a grazing management scheme to help farmers avoid the poisonous locoweed.Most of the 2000 species of Astragalus, including many that are commonly known as locoweeds, do not produce swainsonine. Some species, including a few that produce swainsonine, accumulate selenium. This has led to confusion between swainsonine poisoning and selenium poisoning due to this genus.


Ohmdenosaurus (meaning "Ohmden lizard") is the name given to a genus of herbivorous dinosaur from the Early Jurassic. It was a very small (4 m (13 ft) long) perhaps vulcanodontid sauropod which lived in Germany. Only a couple of fragmentary leg bones were found.

In the 1970s, German palaeontologist Rupert Wild, visiting the Urwelt-Museum Hauff at Holzmaden, noticed a fossil in a display labelled as a plesiosaur which he recognised to be a dinosaur bone instead. It proved to be impossible to establish the exact provenance of the remains. In 1978 it was named and described by him as the type species Ohmdenosaurus liasicus. The generic name refers to Ohmden, a town in Baden-Württemberg near the quarry the remains were probably found in. The specific name refers to the Lias, an old name for the Early Jurassic.

The holotype, which lacked an inventory number, was apparently found in the famous Posidonia Shale, marine strata dating from the middle Toarcian, as can be established from the presence of the snail Coelodiscus in the matrix rock containing the only partially prepared bones. It consists of a right tibia, an astragalus and a calcaneus. The bones, disarticulated in the fossil, show signs of weathering, evidence that the animal died on land and that only later its bones were washed into the sea. The tibia is only 405 millimetres long, indicating a remarkably small individual for a sauropod.

Talus bone

The talus (; Latin for ankle), talus bone, astragalus , or ankle bone is one of the group of foot bones known as the tarsus. The tarsus forms the lower part of the ankle joint through its articulations with the lateral and medial malleoli of the two bones of the lower leg, the tibia and fibula. Within the tarsus, it articulates with the calcaneus below and navicular in front within the talocalcaneonavicular joint. Through these articulations, it transmits the entire weight of the body to the foot.The second largest of the tarsal bones, it is also one of the bones in the human body with the highest percentage of its surface area covered by articular cartilage. Additionally, it is also unusual in that it has a retrograde blood supply, i.e. arterial blood enters the bone at the distal end.In humans, no muscles attach to the talus, unlike most bones, and its position therefore depends on the position of the neighbouring bones.


This page is based on a Wikipedia article written by authors (here).
Text is available under the CC BY-SA 3.0 license; additional terms may apply.
Images, videos and audio are available under their respective licenses.