click picture for larger version
Common Name: Utah Ladyfinger Milkvetch
Other Common Names: Utah Milkvetch
Scientific Name: Astragalus utahensis
Family: Pea Family (Fabaceae)
Distribution: northern Great Basin
Habitat: desert and foothill habitats
Habit: perennial herb
Foliage Color: gray green
Leaves: pinnatly compound, densely hairy, sprawling on the ground
Flower Color: bright magenta pink
Flower Form: large (1" long) pea flowers borne in clusters
Flowering Season: early to mid spring
Cultural Requirements: Requires full sun and well-drained soils. Fully cold-hardy. Very drought hardy (i.e., needs no supplemental water after establishment on the Wasatch Front), intolerant of overwatering.
Culture: Easily obtained from direct late fall seeding. At dispersal, seeds are hard, i.e., they do not take up water, and in nature they can live for many years in the ground. Nicking with a razor blade, rubbing on sandpaper, or soaking in hot water breaks the hardseededness. The seeds germinate readily once water uptake takes place. Plants produced as container stock do not flower until the second year.
Uses and Notes of Interest: We have chosen this attractive little plant as our poster child for the Utah Heritage Garden Program. It is abundant along the foothills of the Wasatch Front, and is one of the very first plants to flower after the snow melts. Great spreading clumps adorn the most unpromising areas, such as old gravel quarries and highway rights of way. Its sprawling habit makes the plant a natural for rock gardens and also as a ground cover on hot, gravelly hard-to-water areas of the yard. It does not do well in the company of taller plants due to its high light requirement. The pretty magenta flowers are followed by interesting fruits, pods that resemble little woolly chicks. Seeds are readily collected by shaking them out of the gaping "beak" of the pod.