Tephrosia virginiana

Species Native to Missouri
Common Name: goat's rue 
Type: Herbaceous perennial
Family: Fabaceae
Native Range: Eastern North America
Zone: 3 to 9
Height: 1.00 to 2.00 feet
Spread: 0.75 to 1.50 feet
Bloom Time: May to August
Bloom Description: Pale yellow standard with rose-pink wings and keel
Sun: Full sun
Water: Dry to medium
Maintenance: Low
Flower: Showy
Attracts: Butterflies
Tolerate: Dry Soil


Best grown in acidic, dry to medium, well-drained, sandy loams in full sun. Good resistance to drought. According to Steyermark, this Missouri native is difficult to transplant or to grow from seed. Once established, plants are best left alone because division and transplanting are difficult.

Noteworthy Characteristics

Tephrosia virginiana, commonly called goat's rue, is a silky-hairy member of the pea family that typically grows to 1-2' tall on upright to sprawling stems. It is native to dry open woods, glades and sandy prairies in Eastern North America from Ontario to New Hampshire south to Texas and Florida. It is commonly found throughout the southern, central and eastern parts of Missouri, but is absent from the northwestern part of the State north of the Missouri River. Compound, odd-pinnate leaves have 14-28 paired oblong leaflets (to 1" long by 3/8" wide) with one terminal leaflet at the tip. Stems and leaves are usually hairy often giving the plant a gray-green color. Flowers bloom late May to August in short racemes (to 3 1/2" long). Each bi-colored flower (to 3/4" long) has a pale yellow standard petal and rose-pink wings and keel. Flowers give way to seed pods (to 3" long). Roots fix nitrogen. Roots contain rotenone which is toxic to insects and fish. Plants were once fed to goats for the purpose of improving milk production, but the presence of rotenone led to a discontinuance of that regimen.

Genus name comes from the Greek word tephros meaning ash-colored from the grey appearance of the leaves.

Specific epithet means of Virginia.


No serious insect or disease problems.


Border fronts, cottage gardens, native plant gardens.