Ground Plum OR.

Ground Plum OR.

Ground Plum

Astragalus crassicarpus, also known as groundplum milkvetch or buffalo plum, provides beauty and interesting texture and form in every part of the plant and stage of development. A low-growing, spreading legume, it prefers full sun and well-drained soils. It can be used in "bee lawns", as a ground cover, and in rock gardens due to its short height and preference for dry soils. It has pinnate leaves and, in spring, clusters of pea-like blossoms with hues of lavender, purple and white. The thick-walled seed pods typically rest on the ground and do indeed look like plums (see photos). In addition to being a favorite of bees, Astragalus species are one of the host plants of the Clouded Sulphur butterfly.


Alexandra often said that if her mother were cast upon a desert island, she would thank God for her deliverance, make a garden, and find something to preserve. Preserving was almost a mania with Mrs. Bergson. Stout as she was, she roamed the scrubby banks of Norway Creek looking for fox grapes and goose plums, like a wild creature in search of prey. She made a yellow jam of the insipid ground-cherries that grew on the prairie, flavoring it with lemon peel; and she made a sticky dark conserve of garden tomatoes. She had experimented even with the rank buffalo-pea, and she could not see a fine bronze cluster of them without shaking her head and murmuring, “What a pity!”Pyne's, or Guthrie's, ground-plum is a perennial member of the pea family that is known only from Rutherford County in Tennessee's Central Basin. The plant has short stems 2 in (5 cm) to 6 in (15.2 cm) long that arise from a tap root. Each stem supports five to 10 leaves. The leaves are 2 in (5 cm) to 4 in (10 cm) long and are composed of about 24 small leaflets.

The inflorescence is a raceme supporting 10-16 purple flowers. The plants flower in April and May. During flowering, the peduncle supporting the inflorescence arches upward. After flowering and as the fruits mature, this peduncle gradually arches down. The fruits are fleshy pods that usually mature in May and June. At maturity the pods are colored red above and yellow below. Pyne's ground plum superficially resembles the widespread Astragalus tennesseensis (Tennessee ground-plum). However, the Tennessee ground-plum can be readily distinguished by its yellow rather than purple flowers, its yellow-brown rather than reddish topped fruits, and the copious number of hairs found on the plant.Pyne's ground-plum is endemic to the cedar glades of middle Tennessee. All sites are associated with thin-bedded, fossiliferous Lebanon limestone outcroppings that support the unique cedar glade communities found in Tennessee's central basin. The species only grows along the deeper soiled glade margins or in areas within the glades that are partially shaded. Soil depths vary between 2 in (5 cm) and 8 in (20 cm) at the known sites. Cedar glades are typically wet in winter and spring, and dry and very hot in summer and fall. (Source: www.encyclopedia.com)



Related Articles