Astragalus canadensis – 2nd year

a native nitrogen-fixing plant

This is part of our farm’s ongoing “Native Legume Establishment in an Agroforestry Setting” project. We planted a number of Canadian milkvetch (Astragalus canadensis) in the rows last year. A couple of them were photographed next to broccoli plants. These are the strongest survivors, twelve total. They were mostly covered in straw – I pulled it back for these photos, but then replaced it a couple days ago before the hard freeze.

Why native legumes? Legumes fix nitrogen out of the air = free fertilizer. All plants need nitrogen, because it is an essential part of chlorophyll (=photosynthesis). We’re incorporating native plants to support native pollinators, and to help preserve our region’s biodiversity.

We’re still learning about goatsrue, its phenology (growth habit and life cycle). Based on the photos, it appears to be a clumping forb (herbaceous plant). According to Weakley (2015)*, it dwells in “forests, woodlands, streambanks, rocky slopes and bluffs,” and the BONAP indicates that it has been found in Rockingham County. It may provide good turkey forage – so we’ll slash it as it’s fruiting and see if the chickens respond. Future photos will provide a scale, but the largest clump is about 7 inches across, and the smallest a couple of inches.

*Flora of the Southern and Mid-Atlantic States

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