Tundra milkvetch – Astragalus umbellatus

Alaska Wildflowers | Yellow

The yellow flowers of tundra milkvetch (Astragalus umbellatus) in Alaska

tundra milkvetch

Astragalus umbellatus

Common Names

hairy arctic milk vetch
tundra milkvetch
tundra milk vetch





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

Duration – Growth Habit

Perennial – Forb/herb

Identification and Information

Astragalus umbellatus is a yellow-flowering perennial herb in the legume family that grows from a buried stem and horizontal rhizome. The unbranched stems are 10-30 cm (4-12 inches) tall and may be solitary or a few. The dark green leaves grow from the stem and are alternate pinnate with 7-11 elliptic hairy leaflets. The leaflets are entire.

The inflorescence is a raceme of 1-12 crowded yellow, nodding, bilaterally symmetric flowers at the end of the stem. The petals are yellow or cream-colored with white margins. The two “wings” are generally shorter than the hood or banner and are longer than the spiky lower keel. The calyces (sepals) are light greenish-yellow are cylindrical with small triangular teeth and encapsulate the base of the corolla tube and are sparsely covered with short black hairs. The fruit is 20-25mm long egg-shaped pods.


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

No food or medicinal uses were found. The roots may have been eaten raw or cooked by Tavgi Samoyds in Siberia during periods of scarcity. Many species within the Astragalus genus (locoweed, milkvetch) are known to be toxic, especially to livestock. Certain species are known to contain the indolizidine alkaloid swainsonine, glycoside miserotoxin, and/or selenium.

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Distribution and Habitat

Tundra milkvetch is native to northwestern North America including Alaska, Yukon Territory, British Columbia, and the Northwest Territories. It is also widespread in Siberia and found in a few isolated locations in Pakistan and Ukraine.

stragalus umbellatus is often found in stony soils and tundra provided enough moisture, near river banks, meadows, moist alpine slopes, in mossy areas, and heaths.


RankScientific Name (Common Name)
KingdomPlantae (plantes, Planta, Vegetal, plants)
   SubkingdomViridiplantae (green plants)
      InfrakingdomStreptophyta (land plants)
            DivisionTracheophyta (vascular plants, tracheophytes)
               SubdivisionSpermatophytina (spermatophytes, seed plants, phanérogames)
                           FamilyFabaceae (peas, legumes)
                              GenusAstragalus L. (milkvetch, astragales, locoweed)
                                 SpeciesAstragalus umbellatus Bunge – tundra milkvetch

References and Further Reading


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

Classification and Taxonomy

A. umbellatus Bunge Taxonomic Serial No.: 25394, ITIS Database

A. umbellatus Bunge tundra milkvetch, USDA Database

Uses (Toxicity)

Astragalus umbellatus Bunge, Famine Foods – Purdue University

The Toxicology of the Astragalus genus, Department of Animal Science, Cornell

Map and Distribution

A. umbellatus Bunge
Published in: Mém. Acad. Imp. Sci. Saint Pétersbourg, Sér. 7, 11(16): 24 (1868), GBIF Database

A. umbellatus Tundra Milkvetch, NatureServe Explorer

Description and Information

A. umbellatus Bunge, E-Flora BC: Electronic Atlas of the Flora of British Columbia

A. ubellatus (tundra milkvetch), Ecological Atlas of Denali’s Flora (UAF)


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