Yakima Milk-vetch (Astragalus reventiformis)
Yakima is the name of a group or tribe of Native Americans who live in Washington state. There is a city, a river, and a valley that share the name. The origin and meaning of the name is not certain. The Yakima Nation includes the eastern side of Mt. Adams.
Milk-vetch is the common name for Astragalus, a large genus in the pea family. Astragalus is Greek for “ankle-bone” and may refer to the shape of the seeds. There are approximately 3,000 species of Astragalus, making it one of, if not the largest genus in terms of species. Milk-vetches have the rare ability to ingest nitrogen from the air, allowing them to live where other plants might not survive. The genus’ other nickname “locoweed” comes from the poison in many species seedpods. This species, reventiformis, is only found in central Washington and north-central Oregon. We found these along the first mile or so of the hike up the Dalles Mountain Road last April.