Ground Milkvetch - Astragalus chamaeleuce
Cicada milkvetch is a stemless (or nearly so) perennial herb with a simple or branched rootcrown and taproot. The pinnately compound leaves are 2-8 cm (1-3 in) long with 2-7 pairs of egg-shaped leaflets. Foliage is covered with silvery hairs that branch at the base and spread in opposite directions appressed to the surface of the leaf or stem (dolabriform). 4-9 flowers are borne on lax or ascending stalks arising from near the top of the rootcrown. The purplish, pea-like flowers have a slightly raised upper petal, 16-25 mm long, that is just barely longer than the others. The purplish calyx is 9-13 mm long and covered with white or black hairs. The brightly mottled, green and purple, inflated fruits are sparsely hairy and egg-shaped with a short, flattened beak and usually lay directly on the ground among the leaves.
Mature fruit in mid-June.
The combination of stemless habit, dolabriform hairs and mottled, inflated pods distinguish this species. A hand lens or microscope is required to observe the hairs.
In MT known from southern Carbon County; MT south to UT and CO (Lesica et al. 2012. Manual of Montana Vascular Plants. BRIT Press. Fort Worth, TX).
Observations in Montana Natural Heritage Program Database
Number of Observations:
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(Observations spanning multiple months or years are excluded from time charts)
Dry, often sandy soil of shrub steppe in the valleys.
The following animal species have been reported as pollinators of this plant species or its genus where their geographic ranges overlap: Bombus vagans
, Bombus appositus
, Bombus auricomus
, Bombus bifarius
, Bombus borealis
, Bombus centralis
, Bombus fervidus
, Bombus flavifrons
, Bombus huntii
, Bombus mixtus
, Bombus nevadensis
, Bombus rufocinctus
, Bombus ternarius
, Bombus terricola
, Bombus occidentalis
, Bombus pensylvanicus
, Bombus griseocollis
, and Bombus insularis
(Macior 1974, Thorp et al. 1983, Mayer et al. 2000, Colla and Dumesh 2010, Wilson et al. 2010, Koch et al. 2012, Miller-Struttmann and Galen 2014, Williams et al. 2014).
- Literature Cited AboveLegend: View Online Publication
- Colla, S.R. and S. Dumesh. 2010. The bumble bees of southern Ontario: notes on natural history and distribution. Journal of the Entomological Society of Ontario 141:39-68.
- Koch, J., J. Strange, and P. Williams. 2012. Bumble bees of the western United States. Washington, DC: USDA Forest Service, Pollinator Partnership. 143 p.
- Lesica, P., M.T. Lavin, and P.F. Stickney. 2012. Manual of Montana Vascular Plants. Fort Worth, TX: BRIT Press. viii + 771 p.
- Macior, L.M. 1974. Pollination ecology of the Front Range of the Colorado Rocky Mountains. Melanderia 15: 1-59.
- Mayer, D.F., E.R. Miliczky, B.F. Finnigan, and C.A. Johnson. 2000. The bee fauna (Hymenoptera: Apoidea) of southeastern Washington. Journal of the Entomological Society of British Columbia 97: 25-31.
- Miller-Struttmann, N.E. and C. Galen. 2014. High-altitude multi-taskers: bumble bee food plant use broadens along an altitudinal productivity gradient. Oecologia 176:1033-1045.
- Thorp, R.W., D.S. Horning, and L.L. Dunning. 1983. Bumble bees and cuckoo bumble bees of California (Hymenoptera: Apidae). Bulletin of the California Insect Survey 23:1-79.
- Williams, P., R. Thorp, L. Richardson, and S. Colla. 2014. Bumble Bees of North America. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press. 208 p.
- Wilson, J.S., L.E. Wilson, L.D. Loftis, and T. Griswold. 2010. The montane bee fauna of north central Washington, USA, with floral associations. Western North American Naturalist 70(2): 198-207.
- Additional ReferencesLegend: View Online Publication
Do you know of a citation we're missing?
- Lesica, P., M.T. Lavin, and P.F. Stickney. 2022. Manual of Montana Vascular Plants, Second Edition. Fort Worth, TX: BRIT Press. viii + 779 p.
- Quire, R.L. 2013. The sagebrush steppe of Montana and southeastern Idaho shows evidence of high native plant diversity, stability, and resistance to the detrimental effects of nonnative plant species. M.Sc. Thesis. Bozeman, MT: Montana State University. 124 p.