Field locoweed – Oxytropis campestris

Alaska Wildflowers | Yellow

Field locoweed

Oxytropis campestris

Common Names

cold mountain crazyweed
field locoweed
late yellow locoweed
northern yellow locoweed
northern yellow point-vetch
white smallflower pointloco
Yellow oxytrope

Synonyms

none

Subspecies

Oxytropis campestris var. campestris
Oxytropis campestris var. chartacea
Oxytropis campestris var. columbiana
Oxytropis campestris var. cusickii*
Oxytropis campestris var. davisii
Oxytropis campestris var. dispar
Oxytropis campestris var. johannensis
Oxytropis campestris var. jordalii*
Oxytropis campestris var. minor
Oxytropis campestris var. roaldii*
Oxytropis campestris var. spicata
Oxytropis campestris var. varians*
Oxytropis campestris var. wanapum

*Varieties (possibly) found in Alaska
GBIF includes instance of var. cusickii but USDA Plant Database and NatureServe do not

Genus: Oxytropis
Family: Fabaceae (peas, legumes)
Order: Fabales
full classification

Duration – Growth Habit

Perennial – Forb/herb


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Identification and Information

Oxytropis campestris is a perennial herb, 5-30 cm tall (2-12 inches), growing from a taproot. It has a branched stem-base, the lower portion of which is often covered with disintegrated stipules (leaf-like appendages that are decayed or breaking apart). The basal leaves are odd-pinnately compound and 3-30 cm long (may grow up to 50 cm). The compound leaf is made up of 4-35 ( or more) lance-elliptic to oblong leaflets. The leaflets may be silky or appressed-hairy on the abaxial and/or adaxial surface or nearly glabrous (silky hairs or smooth on the upper and lower side of the leaflets).

The inflorescence is a raceme of 5 to 30 pea-like flowers that can grow up to 30 cm long. The raceme might be spike-like or might be a dense, rounder cluster of flowers. The corollas (petals) of the flowers are white to yellowish, sometimes tinged with purple or brown, and 10-18 mm long. The calyx (sepals) are cylindrical with black and grey hairs. It produces a fruit consisting of oblong-ovate pods that are 15-20 mm long. Each pod contains many seeds.

Uses

For information only (typically historical) – I take no responsibility for adverse effects from the use of any plant.

Oxytropis campestris is poisonous to humans and livestock. It contains swainsonine, an indolizidine alkaloid, which can cause locoism in livestock. Consumption by livestock will lead to a chronic neurologic disease that causes altered behavior, infertility, abortion, birth defects, depression, weight loss, and death.

Traditional uses include using a decoction of roots as a disinfectant (poured on the head in a sweathouse for purification (Thompson tribe of British Columbia) and use as a forage plant (no details on what part, but again, poisonous – do not consume).


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Distribution and Habitat

Oxytropis campestris can be found across the northern United States and almost all of Canada, excluding Prince Edward Island. It is common in Scandinavia as well as parts of central Europe.

It is often found in gravelly, sandy, or rocky sites like river bars, rocky outcrops, roadsides, and near railroad tracks. It can occasionally be found in alpine tundra, subalpine and alpine zones.

Classification

KingdomPlantae (plantes, Planta, Vegetal, plants)
SubkingdomViridiplantae (green plants)
InfrakingdomStreptophyta (land plants)
SuperdivisionEmbryophyta 
DivisionTracheophyta (vascular plants, tracheophytes)
SubdivisionSpermatophytina (spermatophytes, seed plants, phanérogames)
ClassMagnoliopsida 
SuperorderRosanae 
OrderFabales 
FamilyFabaceae (peas, legumes)
GenusOxytropis DC. (locoweed, crazyweed)
SpeciesOxytropis campestris (L.) DC. (field locoweed, white smallflower pointloco, northern yellow locoweed)

References and Further Reading

Guidebook

Field Guide to Alaskan Wildflowers, Pratt, Verna E. pg. 33

Classification and Taxonomy

Oxytropis campestris (L.) DC. Taxonomic Serial No.: 26166, ITIS Database

Uses and Toxicity

Daniel Cook, Dale R. Gardner, Stephen T. Lee, James A. Pfister, Clinton A. Stonecipher, Stanley L. Welsh,
A swainsonine survey of North American Astragalus and Oxytropis taxa implicated as locoweeds,
Toxicon, Volume 118
, 2016, Pages 104-111, ISSN 0041-0101, https://doi.org/10.1016/j.toxicon.2016.04.033.

Oxytropis campestris (L.) DC., Native American Ethnobotany Database

Map and Distribution

Oxytropis campestris (L.) DC., GBIF Database

Oxytropis campestris Northern Yellow Point-vetch, NatureServe Explorer

Description and Information

Oxytropis campestris (L.) DC. field locoweed, Flora of British Columbia

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