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Canadian Milkvetch - Astragalus canadensis

Canadian Milkvetch - Astragalus canadensis

Astragalus canadensis, also known as Canadian Milkvetch or Rattleweed, is a perennial wildflower native to Michigan and the UP. Reaches 3 to 4 feet in height, but is semi-erect or sprawling and likes to lean on rocks, limbs, and other plants. It does not have tendrils so it doesn't climb or tangle. This Milkvetch features large, showy spikes of white or cream, tubular flowers beloved by bumblebees, hummingbirds, and butterflies, among others. It is a butterfly host plant, but also a preferred snack of rabbits and deer, so fence it or guard it with sedges, native grasses, or other munch-resistant plants if critters are an issue in your area. This is the host plant for the Clouded Sulphur and Western Tailed-Blue butterflies, both found in the UP. Blooms all summer and makes a good garden plant.


Canadian Milkvetch has a substantial taproot and can help control erosion, especially on lakeshores or riverbanks. It also inhabits dappled shade woodlands and meadows. Its sprawling habit makes it a good ground-cover, especially in difficult dry, sunny areas. It tolerates dry to wet soil and fixes its own nitrogen. Flowers are followed by tiers of bean-like pods that rattle when dry. The "beans" are not edible for humans, but are popular with birds, wildlife, and insects, making this plant the basis for a strong garden food chain.

  • Page updated April 2024.

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