Monographs Details: Astragalus miser Douglas ex Hook. var. miser
Authors:Rupert C. Barneby
Authority: Barneby, Rupert C. 1964. Atlas of North American Astragalus. Mem. New York Bot. Gard. 13(1): 1-596.
Synonyms:Tragacantha misera (Douglas) Kuntze, Phaca misera (Douglas) Piper, Tium miserum (Douglas ex Hook.) Rydb., Astragalus strigosus J.M.Coult. & Fisher, Astragalus griseopubescens E.Sheld., Homalobus strigosus (J.M.Coult. & Fisher) Rydb., Astragalus serotinus var. strigosus (J.M.Coult. & Fisher) J.F.Macbr.
Description:Variety Description - Rather tall, often stiffer and more wiry than other forms of A. miser, the stems diffuse, ascending, or erect, (5) 8—32 cm. long; herbage densely (rarely more thinly) strigulose-pilosulous with appressed and ascending, or nearly all loosely ascending hairs up to 0.5—0.9 (1) mm. long, cinereous or canescent, the leaflets pubescent on both sides but sometimes thinly so near the midrib above; leaves 4—14 (17) cm. long, with 9-19 linear-elliptic to narrowly linear, or (in some lower leaves) narrowly elliptic, acute, commonly folded and falcately incurved leaflets 3-26 (30) mm. long, the terminal one nearly always longer than and remote from the last pair and continuous with the rachis, the joint sometimes represented by an obscure strangulation, rarely with a distinct petiolule; racemes very loosely and often remotely (5) 7-19-flowered, the axis early elongating, (2) 4-12 cm. long in fruit; calyx (4.2) 4.6-6 mm. long, the tube 2.6-4.2 mm., the teeth (1.4) 1.8-2.6 mm. long; petals all pink-purple or lavender, the color sometimes fugitive in drying, sometimes straw-yellow in old specimens; banner (9.5) 9.8-12 mm. long, 6-8.6 mm. wide; wings 8.1-10.6 mm. long, the claws 3.1-4.3 (4.7) mm., the blades (5.3) 5.6-7.5 mm. long, 2-2.9 mm. wide; keel (8) 8.610.7 mm. long, the claws 3.2-4.8 mm., the blades (4.8) 5.5-6.7 mm. long, (2) 2.3-3 mm. wide; pod linear-oblong or -elliptic in profile, 1.5-2.2 (2.5) cm. long, (2.5) 3-4 mm. in diameter, contracted distally into a subsymmetrically triangular apex, the valves often purple-speckled, densely strigulose with hairs up to 0.350.6 mm. long; ovules 8-12 (17).

Distribution and Ecology - Dry grassy hilltops, sagebrush flats, open stony meadows, sometimes in open yellow pine forest, 1300-4550 feet, locally plentiful around Flathead Lake and along the lower Kootenai River in northwestern Montana, south to Deer Lodge Valley in Powell County, and east just across the Divide to the Missouri Valley in Jefferson and Lewis and Clark Counties and to Waterton Park, Alberta, west to the upper Columbia and Spokane Rivers in Ferry, Stevens, and Spokane Counties, Washington, and immediately adjoining British Columbia.—Map No. 20.—Late April to early August.


As I have seen it flowering in the Kootenai and Deer Lodge Valleys in western Montana, the typical form of the weedy milk-vetch is a comparatively showy and even decorative plant. It is similar in stature and general growth-habit to the more northern and western var. serotinus, but differs in the more copious ashen vesture of longer hairs and in the substantially larger flowers of a moderately bright purple hue. One should take care to distinguish var. miser from the less common but superficially similar tall lowland form of A. Bourgovii; this may be recognized by its nearly always black-hairy pod and remarkably few (2—6) ovules.

The name A. miser has been applied to the present species only since 1953, when Cron- quist examined the typus in London and found it to represent, as was already expected from a photograph, a form of what had passed in recent years as A. decumbens (Nutt.) Gray (=our A. miser var. decumbens). The name has been current in the literature since early times, having been taken up by Gray (1864, p. 228), who believed that no Douglas specimens had survived, in the sense of A. microcystis (Lyall 7). Gray’s interpretation was accepted by Piper (l.c. sub Phaca) and by Jones (1923, p. 98), but was rejected by Rydberg, who professed to have discovered the genuine species of Douglas in a form of A. obscurus (l.c., sub. Tio; 1931, pp. 403-4, discussion). Dr. Cronquist tells me that it was Prof. Marion Ownbey who first realized that Tium miserum of Rydberg’s Revision was not known from modern collections to occur in eastern Washington, and it was he who initiated a re-evaluation of the typus. My adoption of the name in a sense somewhat more restricted than that of Cronquist’s revision of the species has been discussed elsewhere (1956, p. 482); it may be worth repeating, nevertheless, that for the purposes of fixing the precise identity of the original A. miser, I have considered an approximate topotypus, Constance 1902 (cited above), from the mouth of the Little Spokane River in Spokane County, as a standard of comparison.

Distribution:Montana United States of America North America| Washington United States of America North America| Alberta Canada North America| British Columbia Canada North America|