Goat’s Rue (Hoary Pea)

Photo of goat's rue showing flower cluster
Scientific Name
Tephrosia virginiana
Fabaceae (beans)

A low, bushy, hairy perennial. Flowers in terminal racemes and others arising from leaf axils, with showy, pea-flower-type blossoms; the standard (larger upper petal) light yellow suffused with pink, and the keel (2 united lower petals) pink or pale purple. Blooms May–August. Leaves alternate, feather-compound, with normally 21 narrowly oblong leaflets, hairy. Fruit small pods to 2 inches long.

Height: to 2 feet tall, but usually shorter.
Where To Find
image of Goat's Rue Hoary Pea Distribution Map
South of the Missouri River, scattered north of it.
Occurs in rocky, open woods, savannas, prairies, glades, and fields, in acid soils.
The roots contain rotenone, a deadly poison for fish and other cold-blooded animals. Native Americans used the plant extract for fish poison. They also used it for a variety of medicinal purposes. Settlers fed it to goats thinking it would increase milk production.
Like other legumes, this plant adds nitrogen to the soil. Bees and other insects are attracted to the flowers, and caterpillars and beetles feed on the foliage (making themselves toxic to predators). Wild turkey eat the seeds.
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Where to See Species

This 655-acre native prairie was purchased from Vaughn Lumpee in 1987. Mr. Lumpee ran a cattle operation on this area and he had a great fondness for the cowboy lifestyle.
About Wildflowers, Grasses and Other Nonwoody Plants in Missouri
A very simple way of thinking about the green world is to divide the vascular plants into two groups: woody and nonwoody (or herbaceous). But this is an artificial division; many plant families include some species that are woody and some that are not. The diversity of nonwoody vascular plants is staggering! Think of all the ferns, grasses, sedges, lilies, peas, sunflowers, nightshades, milkweeds, mustards, mints, and mallows — weeds and wildflowers — and many more!