Goat’s Rue or Wild Sweet Pea – Flowers

(Cracca Virginiana) Pea family (Tephrosia Virginiana of Gray)

Flowers—In terminal cluster, each in. long or over, butterfly-shaped, consisting of greenish, cream-yellow standard, purplish-rose wings, and curved keel of greenish yellow tinged with rose; petals clawed; 10 stamens (9 and 1); calyx 5-toothed. Stem : Hoary, with white, silky hairs, rather woody, 1 to 2 feet high. Leaves : Compounded of 7 to 25 oblong leaflets. Root: Long, fibrous, tough. Fruit: A hoary, narrow pod, 1 to 2 in. long.

Preferred Habitat—Dry, sandy soil, edges of pine woods. Flowering Season—June—July.

Distribution—Southern New England, westward to Minnesota, south to Florida, Louisiana, and Mexico.

Flowers far less showy and attractive than this denizen of sandy waste lands, a cousin of the wisteria vine and the locust tree, have been introduced to American gardens. Striking its long fibrous root deep into the dry soil, the plant spreads in thrifty clumps through heat and drought—and so tough are its fibres they might almost be used for violin strings. As in the case of the lupine, the partridge pea and certain others akin to it, the leaves of the hoary pea ” go to sleep ” at night, but after a manner of their own, i.e., by lying along the stem and turning on their own bases.

In similar situations from New York south and southwestward, the Milk Pea (Galactia regularis or G. glabella of Gray) lies prostrate along the ground, the matted, usually branched stems sending up at regular intervals a raceme of rose-purple flowers in July and August from the axil of the trefoliate leaf.