First On The Scene: Milkvetch

Milkvetch is one of the first wildflowers on the spring scene, and has earned my respect as the hardiest of the hardiest.  There are many different types, but what amazes me is its ability to grow in the driest conditions.  Imagine looking out upon a barren, dry, desert landscape.  You crave some excitement, some boldness, some life, but everything is quiet and reserved.  Not a soul in sight.   You allow your eyes to slowly come into focus.  Suddenly something purple catches your eye.  (Purple, out here?!)  Looking closer, you begin to notice many milkvetch all around, sometimes creating carpets of magenta.  And it makes you feel something of excitement, all from this sweet little plant.

Monument Valley Milkvetch

Purple-pink milkvetch blooming alone amidst Monument Valley’s Desert

 

I have a definite love affair with milkvetch,  but it’s not included in my list of edible plants.  Some species can be toxic to livestock, causing them to become addicted, hallucinate, and delirious.  I’m haven’t heard anything about humans having adverse reactions, but I also haven’t heard of any people eating it.  (If you’ve got insider info on this, please leave a comment below!) Surprisingly, there have been a number of tests on Milkvetch species for use in medicine, but with so many different species (421) I’m not willing to risk my health trying to figure out which ones and what works.  Although Milkvetch may not be a safe plant for consumption, it’s still one I welcome with open arms.

Check out this usda list of 421 species of milkvetch in North America,
ranging in color from white, yellow, pink, and purple.
White Milkvetch

Closer to Flagstaff AZ, I found several white milkvetch, which I hadn’t seen before.

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