CPC Plant Profile: Heliotrope Milkvetch
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Plant Profile

Heliotrope Milkvetch (Astragalus montii)

The seed pods of this species are large relative to the rest of the plant, with red with tan spots. Photo Credit: Joyce Maschinski
Description
  • Global Rank: T1 - Critically Imperiled
  • Legal Status: Federally Threatened
  • Family: Fabaceae
  • State: UT
  • Nature Serve ID: 131801
  • Date Inducted in National Collection: 03/05/1993

Astragalus montii is a low-growing alpine herbaceous perennial. Its tiny, pinnately compound leaves are dwarfed by comparatively large, inflated pinkish-brown seed pods. Two to eight pink-purple flowers with white wing-tips form at the end of stems during the months of June to August. (Geer & Tepedino 1993) The species perches on chalky white outcrops in some of the most beautiful mountains in Utah, the Wasatch Plateau. Unfortunately, this region has active oil and gas exploration. This species was listed as Federally Threatened species in 1987 in order to ensure that adequate care would be taken to conserve the species and its habitat during any energy development activities. (USFWS 1987)

Participating Institutions
Updates
  • 08/26/2020
  • Reproductive Research

Geer and Tepedino (1993) conducted a pollination study of this species and determined that these plants are dependent on mid- to large-size, energy-demanding bees for pollination. When the number of available flowers declines in a population these pollinators are likely to look for other sources of pollen and the plants must rely on self-fertilization and autogamy.

  • 08/26/2020
  • Orthodox Seed Banking

More cross-year collections are needed to assure good genetic representation from the 3 populations.

  • 08/26/2020
  • Seed Collection

More cross-year collections are needed to assure good genetic representation from the 3 populations.

Nature Serve Biotics
  • 05/02/2017

Endemic to the Wasatch Plateau of central Utah (Sanpete and Sevier counties), where there are 3 populations known. Restricted to a very specific habitat which is of limited extent, and threatened by trampling which disturbs the mineral soil where it grows.

Joyce Maschinski, Ph.D.
  • 01/01/2010

Threats include: mineral exploration grazing animals oil and gas exploration drilling and production harshness of the alpine environment and fluctuations in climate levels of other competing plants (Geer and Tepedino 1993)

Joyce Maschinski, Ph.D.
  • 01/01/2010

Known only from the southern Wasatch Plateau in Sanpete and Sevier Counties; estimate of 60,000 plants on White Mountain, estimate of 100,000 plants on the ridgecrest where Heliotrope Mountain merges into Ferron Mountain, and estimate of 40,000 plants on top of Heliotrope Mountain. (USFWS draft recovery plan 1995)

Joyce Maschinski, Ph.D.
  • 01/01/2010

Geer and Tepedino (1993) conducted a pollination study of this species and determined that these plants are dependent on mid- to large-size, energy-demanding bees for pollination. When the number of available flowers declines in a population these pollinators are likely to look for other sources of pollen and the plants must rely on self-fertilization and autogamy.

Joyce Maschinski, Ph.D.
  • 01/01/2010

In 1995 the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service published a draft recovery plan for this species.

Joyce Maschinski, Ph.D.
  • 01/01/2010

Further examination of population sizes is needed. Futher research into basic biology and habitat requirements of the species is needed.

Joyce Maschinski, Ph.D.
  • 01/01/2010

More cross-year collections are needed to assure good genetic representation from the 3 populations.

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Photos
Nomenclature
Taxon Astragalus montii
Authority Welsh
Family Fabaceae
CPC Number 448
ITIS 25592
USDA ASMO11
Common Names heliotrope milkvetch | Monti's milkvetch | heliotrope milk-vetch
Associated Scientific Names Astragalus montii | Astragalus limnocharis var. montii
Distribution The species occurs in 3 populations within a total range of 8 miles across the Manti-LaSal National Forest in central Utah.
State Rank
State State Rank
Utah S1
Habitat

Astragalus montii occurs in a very limited habitat of shale barrens at the timberline, from 3050 to 3350 meters in elevation. (Cronquist et al. 1989)The subalpine communities where this species is found includes cushion plants and other scattered, low-growing species. Associates include Phlox pulvinata, Cymopterus lemmonii, Senecio canus, Hymenoxys acaulis, Astragalus kentrophyta, Eriogonum brevicaule, Erigeron ursinus, Potentilla ovina, Potentilla concinna and Arenaria rubella. (Tuhy 1996)

Ecological Relationships

Pollinated by Osmia (Tepedino 2002).

Pollinators
Common Name Name in Text Association Type Source InteractionID

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