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Ground-plum (Astragalus crassicarpus)

Life history

Species overview

Ground-plum (Astragalus crassicarpus), a Wisconsin Endangered plant, is found in bluff prairies near the Mississippi and lower St. Croix Rivers. Blooming occurs late April through late May; fruiting occurs early June through late August. The optimal identification period for this species is early May through late August.

Synonyms: Astragalus caryocarpus, Astragalus succulentus, Geoprumnon crassicarpum, Geoprumnon succulentum


  • Distinguishing characteristics: Stems spread along the ground and have straight, stiff, sharp, flat-pressed hairs; leaves smooth above with hairs pressed against the leaf, stipules subtending the leaves free rather than being joined to each other encirling the stem (as in A. canadensis, etc.); pods spreading to moderately ascending, not stiffly erect, and divided into two internal chambers.
  • Flower characteristics: Inflorescence of 17 to 25 mm long purple flowers with a green tubes at the base that are 6 to 8 mm long and covered with small black hairs.
  • Fruit characteristics: Pods smooth, 1.5 to 2.5 cm long, rounded, abruptly pointed and divided into two parts on the inside, spreading to moderately ascending, not stiffly erect.
  • Leaf characteristics: Each leaf contains 15 to 29 leaflets that are 8 to 15 mm long and elliptic or narrow towards the base, widening into a rounded tip. The leaves are hairy on both sides, or smooth above with any hairs pressed against the leaf. Stipules subtending the leaves are free, rather than being joined to each other encirling the stem (as in A. canadensis).


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


  • Growth form: Forb-erect
  • Vegetative reproduction:
  • Life cycle: Perennial
  • Comments: Associated Species: Psoralea esculenta, Cirsium hillii, Artemisia frigida, Delphinium virescens.

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 Ground-plum (Astragalus crassicarpus). 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 crassicarpus in the Natural Heritage Inventory Database as of July 2015.

Summary Information
State StatusEND
Federal Status in Wisconsinnone
State RankS2
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 in bluff prairies near the Mississippi and lower St. Croix Rivers.
  • Soils: Sandy or loamy soils.

Natural communities

This table lists the natural communities that are associated with Ground-plum. 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
Dry Prairie 3

Ecological landscapes

This table lists the ecological landscape association scores for Ground-plum. 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
Western Coulee and Ridges 2
Western Prairie 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.
  • Avoid locating landings, staging areas, or access routes in open sandy areas dominated by native grasses.

Management guidance

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

  • Maintain and restore open habitat through selective clearing and brushing.
  • Prescribed burns and/or brushing may be beneficial (dependent on local site conditions).


Ground-plum Photo.

Photo by Kevin Doyle, Wisconsin DNR.

Ground-plum Photo.

Photo by  staff, Wisconsin DNR.

Ground-plum Photo.

Photo by Armund Bartz, Wisconsin DNR.

Ground-plum Photo.

The ground plum is known from only a handful of sites in Wisconsin, most of them in the Western Prairie ecological landscape.

Photo by Armund Bartz, Wisconsin DNR.

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