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Click to read about the Astragalus genus.

Astragalus desperatus

Astragalus desperatus

Astragalus desperatus

Astragalus desperatus (Rimrock Milkvetch)
Fabaceae (Pea Family)

Semi-desert.  Openings.  Spring.
Arches National Park, March 31, 2016;
Butler Wash, May 21, 2014;
Canyonlands National Park, Utah, April 14, 2004.

This delicate beauty is very easy to spot because the brilliant shades of pink/blue/purple flowers stand out against the sand and rock that the plant inhabits.  Plants range from one to seven inches tall.

Click to see a comparison of A. desperatus with the very similar A. nuttallianus and A. naturitensis.

Astragalus desperatus

Astragalus desperatus (Rimrock Milkvetch)
Fabaceae (Pea Family)

Semi-desert.  Openings.  Spring.
Canyonlands National Park, Utah, April 14, 2004.
Butler Wash, May 2, 2007.

Glowingly hairy, mottled green seed pods curl and are about a half inch long.

"Desperatus" is one of the more humorous scientific plant names: Marcus Jones, who collected the plant near Cisco, Utah in 1890 and named it in 1891, was "desperate" to find a name not already used in the huge Astragalus genus.

 

Astragalus cottamii

Astragalus cottamii

 
Astragalus monumentalis variety cottamii.  SynonymAstragalus cottamii. (Monument Valley Milkvetch, Cottam's Milkvetch) 
Fabaceae (Pea Family)

Semi-desert. Openings. Spring.
New Mexico, April 24, 2007.

Astragalus monumentalis variety cottamii, A. desperatus, A. monumentalis, and A. naturitensis are similar in their habitat, size, flower color, pod size, and scarcity.  All are easily overlooked. Astragalus monumentalis variety cottamii is found only in the Four Corners area and is listed as rare.

Leaves are hairy, flowers range from pink to purple, and the pods are curved and often purple speckled (look below the ruler for young pods and just to the left of the ruler for a more mature, speckled pod).  Plants are from one-half to three inches tall.

Astragalus monumentalis variety cottamii was first collected by Harrison in southern Utah and was named A. monumentalis by Rupert Barneby in 1953.  Stanley Welsh named it A. cottamii in 1970.  It is now considered a variety of A. monumentalis by Kartesz and Intermountain Flora.  The plant is named for Utah botanist Walter Cottam.  (Click for more biographical information about Cottam.)

Range map © John Kartesz,
Floristic Synthesis of North America

State Color Key

Species present in state and native
Species present in state and exotic
Species not present in state

County Color Key

Species present and not rare
Species present and rare
Species extirpated (historic)
Species extinct
Species noxious
Species exotic and present
Native species, but adventive in state
Eradicated

Questionable presence

Range map for Astragalus desperatus

Astragalus cottamii

Range map for Astragalus monumentalis variety cottamii