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Alpine Milkvetch (Astragalus alpinus)

Life history

Species overview

Alpine Milkvetch (Astragalus alpinus), a Wisconsin Endangered plant, is found on sandy or gravelly fluctuating inland lake shores. Blooming occurs late April through late August; fruiting occurs late June through late August. The optimal identification period for this species is early May through late September.

Synonyms: Astragalus alpinus ssp. alaskanus, Astragalus alpinus ssp. arcticus, Astragalus astragalinus, Atelophragma alpinum


  • Distinguishing characteristics: Distinguished by its brown or blackish hairs, which cover the calyx and seed pods.
  • Flower characteristics: Flowers arranged on long stemmed, 2 to 4 cm long racemes; flowers nodding, tube-shaped, purple, 10 to 13 mm long.
  • Fruit characteristics: Fruits 3-sided, drooping, lance-oblong shaped, 8 to 13 mm long, covered in small black and white hairs and with grooves running the length of the underside.
  • Leaf characteristics: Leaves 15 to 25, narrowly oblong to oval, 1 to 2 cm long, hairy on both sides, or smooth above.


  • Blooming phenology: late April through late August
  • Fruiting phenology: late June through late August
  • Optimum time to identify: The optimal identification period for this species is early May through late September


  • Growth form: Forb-erect
  • Vegetative reproduction:
  • Life cycle: Perennial
  • Comments: Associated Species: Oxytropis campestris var. chartacea, Juncus alpinus, J. balticus, Eupatorium perfoliatum, Lycopus americanus, Carex viridula, Potentilla anserina, P. norvegica.

State status

Status and Natural Heritage Inventory documented occurrences in Wisconsin

The table below provides information about the protected status - state and federal - and the rank (S and G Ranks) for Alpine Milkvetch (Astragalus alpinus). See the Working List Key for more information about abbreviations. Counties shaded blue have documented occurrences for this species in the Wisconsin Natural Heritage Inventory database. The map is provided as a general reference of where this species has been found to date and is not meant as a range map.

Documented locations of Astragalus alpinus in the Natural Heritage Inventory Database as of July 2015.

Summary Information
State StatusEND
Federal Status in Wisconsinnone
State RankS1
Global RankG5
Tracked by NHIY

Habitats and landscapes

The Natural Heritage Inventory has developed scores indicating the degree to which each of Wisconsin's rare plant species is associated with a particular natural community or ecological landscape. This information is similar to that found in the Wildlife Action Plan for animals. As this is a work in progress, we welcome your suggestions and feedback.

General habitat information

  • Habitat description: Found on sandy or gravelly fluctuating inland lake shores.
  • Soils: Sandy or gravelly soils.

Natural communities

This table lists the natural communities that are associated with Alpine Milkvetch. Scores for natural community associations are: "significant" association (score=3), "moderate association" (score=2) or the species can be present but is only weakly associated with the community (score=1).

Natural communities score
Inland Beach 3

Ecological landscapes

This table lists the ecological landscape association scores for Alpine Milkvetch. The scores (3=High, 2=Moderate, 1=Low, 0=None) also correspond to the map.

Map of the Ecological Landscapes of Wisconsin.

Ecological landscape score
North Central Forest 3

Species guidance

The Endangered Resources Program has developed avoidance measures and management guidelines for plants on the Natural Heritage Working List. These are a work in progress, and we welcome your suggestions and feedback. Sources used in developing this information can be found here.

Avoidance measures

These are specific actions designed to avoid "take" (mortality) of this species.

  • Avoid broadcast spraying of herbicides; use care with spot spraying.
  • Avoid known individual plant locations and conduct operations elsewhere when they are least likely to cause damage. Ideally, this would involve frozen, snow-covered ground. However, in areas of the state where frozen conditions are unreliable, very dry soils late in the growing season might be the best available alternative. Consult with a biologist, if needed.

Management guidance

Management guidelines are additional considerations that may help maintain or enhance habitat for this species

  • Minimize disturbance to hydrology, including soil disturbance from rutting.
  • Avoid disturbance to shorelines and the forest-beach interface.
  • Maintain and restore open habitat through selective clearing and brushing.


Alpine Milkvetch Photo.

Photo © Robert H. Read.

Alpine Milkvetch Photo.

Photo by Ryan Magana, Wisconsin DNR.

Alpine Milkvetch Photo.

Photo by Ryan Magana, Wisconsin DNR.

Alpine Milkvetch Photo.

Photo © Robert H. Read.

Support for Wisconsin's rare plant information has been provided by the Division of Forestry, the Endangered Resources Fund and the Wisconsin Rare Plant Preservation Fund. To donate, visit the Natural Resources Foundation of Wisconsin [exit DNR].

Last revised: Wednesday, May 05, 2021
Southwest Savanna Southern Lake Michigan Coastal Western Coulees and Ridges Southeast Glacial Plains Central Sand Hills Central Lake Michigan Coastal Central Sand Plains Northern Lake Michigan Coastal Northern Lake Michigan Coastal Northeast Sands Western Prairie North Central Forest Northern Highlands Northwest Lowlands Northwest Sands Northwest Lowlands Superior Coastal Plains Forest Transition