CPC Plant Profile: Grand Junction Milkvetch
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Plant Profile

Grand Junction Milkvetch (Astragalus linifolius)

Closeup of the dense clump forming stems. Note the small white flowers with purple tipped keel. Photo Credit: Carol Dawson
  • Global Rank: G3 - Vulnerable
  • Legal Status: N/A
  • Family: Fabaceae
  • State: CO
  • Nature Serve ID: 155314
  • Date Inducted in National Collection: 02/10/1987

Astragalus linifolius is a perennial plant that is a member of the legume family. It flowers from late May to June, producing hundreds of white flowers, each with a purple spot on their keel. This milkvetch produces bright red fruit pods in late June. The flower and fruit colors stand out all the more because the plant appears leafless. Each leaf has only a few linear leaflets. Grand Junction milkvetch and a handful of other species in the Astragalus genus are known to absorb selenium. Selenium is a metal that is naturally occurring. Selenium compounds are used most often in electronic and photocopier components, but they are also widely used in glass, pigments, rubber, metal alloys, textiles, petroleum, medical therapeutic agents, and photographic emulsions. Although it is a natural product, its widespread use has lead to some concern, as it is leaching into drinking water in higher quantities than would be natural. Once in the water supply, it can cause serious health problems for humans and animals. (EPA 2001, Hamilton and Beath 1963)

Participating Institutions
Katie Heineman
  • 06/25/2021
  • Orthodox Seed Banking

Denver Botanic Gardens holds at least one conservation seed collection of this species, originally collected in 1987. Denver Botanic Gardens plans to recollect seed from this 34 year old accession as part of CPC's IMLS-funded seed longevity project that will evaluate how the germination rates and RNA integrity of this species endures in long term seed storage. 

Nature Serve Biotics
  • 05/02/2017

Currently twenty-one documented occurrences, however these within a restricted range. More occurrences known. Found only on the Uncompahgre Plateau (approximately 300 square miles). Colorado National Monument and Rough Canyon Natural Area each contain one population. Insect infestation may threaten reproductive viability at one site.

Carol Dawson
  • 01/01/2010

Insect herbivory may pose a threat (Pers. Comm. 1987).

Carol Dawson
  • 01/01/2010

Documented twenty-one occurrences, most near Grand Junction (Mesa, Delta, and Montrose Cos.) (Pers. Comm. 1987).

Carol Dawson
  • 01/01/2010
  • Reproductive Research

Karron (1987) compared pollination in this rare species and its more widespread relatives. He hypothesized that this species may be a poorer competitor for pollinators, and that this factor may help to maintain its rarity.


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Taxon Astragalus linifolius
Authority Osterhout
Family Fabaceae
CPC Number 437
ITIS 25565
Common Names Grand Junction milkvetch | Grand Junction milk-vetch
Associated Scientific Names Astragalus linifolius
Distribution Colorado endemic. Eastern base of the Uncompahgre Plateau in Delta, Mesa and Montrose Cos. (Spackman 1997)
State Rank
State State Rank
Colorado S3

Sparsely vegetated habitats. Many populations occur on the Chinle and Morrison Formations, with pinyon-juniper and sagebrush. Elev. 4800-6200 ft. (Spackman 1997)

Ecological Relationships

Ecological relationships are unknown.

Common Name Name in Text Association Type Source InteractionID

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