CPC Plant Profile: Deseret Milkvetch
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Plant Profile

Deseret Milkvetch (Astragalus desereticus)

Flowers and fruit of Astragalus desereticus Photo Credit: M.A. "Ben" Franklin
  • Global Rank: N/A
  • Legal Status: N/A
  • Family: Fabaceae
  • State: UT
  • Nature Serve ID: 159222
  • Date Inducted in National Collection: 09/01/2001

Astragalus desereticus was considered extinct for 72 years prior to 1981 when it was re-discovered by Elizabeth Neese. One, small population exists in Utah County on highly accessible land that is used for cattle grazing and wildlife management (Franklin 1990). Astragalus desereticus is a perennial, herbaceous plant that blooms in May and June with white flowers that have a purple tip on the keel. The fruiting peduncles are humistrate, with pods that are 1-2 cm long with lustrous hairs (TNC 1992). This species differs from A. piutensis because of its looser pubescence and more strongly graduated petals (UNPS 2003). The specific epithet refers to the State of Deseret, which is the name given to the Utah territory by the Mormons in 1849 (Barneby 1964).

Participating Institutions
Nature Serve Biotics
  • 05/02/2017

A narrowly restricted endemic of Utah County, Utah with only one known site. The site is 0.93 km long by 0.31 km wide at its widest. Known from a single unprotected occurrence in occupied habitat of approximately 100 acres. There is little information available on population trends. Increased real estate development adjacent to the population poses a threat (direct construction impacts and subsequent increased recreational activities).

  • 01/01/2010

Threats to this species include residential development, livestock grazing, trampling by livestock and wildlife, and soil erosion. The fact that this species is limited to one localized population suggests that threats associated with small population si

  • 01/01/2010

The one population consists of between 5,000 and 10,000 individuals.

  • 01/01/2010

(1) Initiate demographic monitoring to assess population trends and evaluate impacts from grazing and other environmental factors; (2) Conduct field searches to locate additional natural populations and to identify areas of suitable but unoccupied habitat for possible recovery efforts (Franklin 1990).

  • 01/01/2010

Seed should be collected from the single population and stored at established conservation seed programs. If additional populations are found, seed should also be collected from these populations to increase the genetic diversity and gene pool for this species stored at conservation seed programs.


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Taxon Astragalus desereticus
Authority Barneby
Family Fabaceae
CPC Number 396
ITIS 25490
Common Names Deseret Milkvetch | Deseret milk-vetch
Associated Scientific Names Astragalus desereticus
Distribution The one population occurs in an area less than 120 hectares (300 acres).
State Rank
State State Rank
Utah S1

Astragalus desereticus occurs primarily on steep south and west-facing slopes in an open pinyon-juniper community. This species grows exclusively on sandy-gravelly soils weathered from conglomerate outcrops of the Moroni Formation (Franklin 1990). The habitat of A. desereticus exists in a state of perpetual succession due to high rates of soil erosion on the steeper slopes within its range (TNC 1992). Individuals are larger and highly concentrated on the more gradual slopes where soils are deeper and more stable. There appears to be no potential for the species to expand its distribution into the immediately surrounding areas due to dissimilar soil substrates. Additional areas of potential habitat should be surveyed where similar outcrops of the Moroni formation

Ecological Relationships

Astragalus desereticus is a short-lived perennial that flowers and sets seed in May and June. The pods are deciduous at maturity and dehisce at the apex to release the seeds (Barneby 1964). Unlike many species of Astragalus, A. desereticus appears to be palatable to cattle. A. desereticus does not appear to be a selenophyte because it doesnt produce a typical snake-like odor and no other selenophytes occur in the area. A. desereticus also tested negative for the compound, swainsonine, that is poisonous to cattle (TNC 1992). The primary pollinators of this species are likely bumblebees or other polylectic bees; however, no work has been conducted to determine the breeding system of this species (TNC 1992).

Common Name Name in Text Association Type Source InteractionID
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