Executive Director Maggie Gladdis says:

Early Purple Milkvetch (Astragalus shortianus) are some of the first flowers to emerge. Although I am eager to see some flowers, I am loving this spring snow! We need it! So stay sleeping Astragalus and we will see you in a couple of months.
Notice the habitat- dry, mineral soil on the windswept prairie at Painted Mines on
Come to Painted Mines with us in 2022: https://conps.org/event-calendar-2/…

More information: Found in grasslands, rocky slopes, meadows, and forest openings from about 4500 to 9800 feet, this member of the Fabiaceae (pea) family is only about six inches high, but when it’s in bloom, you can’t miss it. Flowers are crowded in a tight cluster, purple to pink, with slender and hairy calyx lobes.

The grayish, hairy leaves, about a half inch long, are pinnately divided into paired leaflets, plus a terminal leaf.  Seeds pods are also hairy and become leathery, about one and quarter inches long. Short’s milkvetch is the common name used for this plant in the Flora of Colorado.


All members of the genus Astragalus (And there are 98 species of Astragalus listed in the Flora of Colorado!) have five petals and ten stamens.  The flowers are formed with a banner, a wing, and a keel, these are all petals. Sometimes the word ‘standard’ is used instead of banner. The banner is a kind of flag, a call to pollinators. The two matching wings are landing pads, and the plant’s reproductive parts are in the keel, so the plant is cleverly designed to attract the attention that will assure its pollination.


Start looking for the blooms in April, they will continue until sometime in June. If you would like to have your own copy of  a good book for learning plant ID, our bookstore sells Plant Identification Terminology, An Illustrated Glossary, by James G. Harris. Head on over to our store right here:
Colorado Native Plant Society Bookstore