Plants and Animals

Astragalus canadensis Canadian milk vetch

species photo
Eric J. Epstein
species photo
Kitty Kohout
species photo
Emmet J. Judziewicz
species photo
Emmet J. Judziewicz

Key Characteristics

Tall perennial forb (up to 1.5 m) of forest, savanna, and glade habitats; arising from a rhizome, leafy branching stems bear compound leaves with 15-35 small (1-4 cm) elliptic leaflets; flowers white; fruit an ovoid pod 4-7 mm thick.

Status and Rank

US Status: No Status/Not Listed
State Status: SC - Special Concern (rare or uncertain; not legally protected)
Global Rank: G5 - Secure
State Rank: S1S2 - Rank is uncertain, ranging from critically imperiled to imperiled


CountyNumber of OccurrencesYear Last Observed
Alger 1 1993
Berrien 1 1917
Delta 4 2021
Kalamazoo 2 1945
Kent 1 1901
Lapeer 1 1911
Lenawee 1 1916
Livingston 2 1921
Montcalm 1 1900
Oakland 1 1914
Ontonagon 13 2021
Oscoda 2 2002
St. Clair 1 2011
St. Joseph 2 1954
Washtenaw 3 1990

Information is summarized from MNFI's database of rare species and community occurrences. Data may not reflect true distribution since much of the state has not been thoroughly surveyed.


Occurs in a variety of habitats including oak barrens, open areas in rich, moist soil over limestone, moist openings, wet ground, and sandy lake shores. Numerous old records have limited habitat data. In addition to the natural communities listed below, the species may occur in lakeplain oak openings, lakeplain wet-mesic prairie, and mesic sand prairie.

Natural Community Types

For each species, lists of natural communities were derived from review of the nearly 6,500 element occurrences in the MNFI database, in addition to herbarium label data for some taxa. In most cases, at least one specimen record exists for each listed natural community. For certain taxa, especially poorly collected or extirpated species of prairie and savanna habitats, natural community lists were derived from inferences from collection sites and habitat preferences in immediately adjacent states (particularly Indiana and Illinois). Natural communities are not listed for those species documented only from altered or ruderal habitats in Michigan, especially for taxa that occur in a variety of habitats outside of the state.

Natural communities are not listed in order of frequency of occurrence, but are rather derived from the full set of natural communities, organized by Ecological Group. In many cases, the general habitat descriptions should provide greater clarity and direction to the surveyor. In future versions of the Rare Species Explorer, we hope to incorporate natural community fidelity ranks for each taxon.

Associated Plants

The little data that exists suggests this species may occur with white oak, red cedar, hawthorn, smooth brome, queen anne's-lace, yarrow, Canada goldenrod, mouse-ear chickweed, sweet clover, tick-trefoil, asters, and Cooper's milk-vetch.

Management Recommendations

Status of the species very poorly known in the state. Most records are very old, but even new records give little data on habitat and condition. The primary need for this species is to conduct status survey and accumulate better data on habitat and populations.

Survey Methods

Random meander search covers areas that appear likely to have rare taxa, based on habitat and the judgment of the investigator.

  • Meander search

    • Survey Period: From first week of July to fourth week of August


Survey References

  • Elzinga, C.L., D.W. Salzer, and J.W. Willoughby. 1998. Measuring and Monitoring Plant Populations. The Nature Conservancy and Bureau of Land Management, Denver. BLM Technical Reference 1730-1. 477pp.
  • Goff, G.F., G.A. Dawson, and J.J. Rochow. 1982. Site examination for Threatened and Endangered plant species. Environmental Management 6(4): 307-316
  • Nelson, J.R. 1984. Rare Plant Field Survey Guidelines. In: J.P. Smith and R. York. Inventory of rare and endangered vascular plants of California. 3rd Ed. California Native Plant Society, Berkeley. 174pp.
  • Nelson, J.R. 1986. Rare Plant Surveys: Techniques For Impact Assessment. Natural Areas Journal 5(3):18-30.
  • Nelson, J.R. 1987. Rare Plant Surveys: Techniques for Impact Assessment. In: Conservation and management of rare and endangered plants. Ed. T.S. Elias. California Native Plant Society, Sacramento. 8pp.

Technical References

  • Gleason, H. A., and A. Cronquist. 1991. Manual of Vascular Plants of Northeastern United States and Adjacent Canada. Second edition. The New York Botanical Garden, Bronx. 910pp.
  • Gray, A. 1950. Gray's Manual of Botany; eighth ed. Van Nostrand Reinghold, New York. 1632pp.
  • Holmgren, N.H. 1998. Illustrated Companion to Gleason and Cronquist's Manual. Illustrations of the vascular plants of Northeastern United States and adjacent Canada. New York Botanical Garden, Bronx. 937pp.
  • Swink, F. and G. Wilhelm. 1994. Plants of the Chicago Region, 4th ed. Indiana Academy of Science, Indianapolis. 921pp.
  • Voss, E. G. 1985. Michigan Flora. Part II. Dicots (Saururaceae-Cornaceae). Bulletin of the Cranbrook Institute of Science and University of Michigan Herbarium. 724pp.