Astragalus crassicarpus

Species Native to Missouri
Common Name: ground plum 
Type: Herbaceous perennial
Family: Fabaceae
Native Range: Central North America
Zone: 3 to 6
Height: 0.25 to 1.50 feet
Spread: 0.75 to 1.50 feet
Bloom Time: April to June
Bloom Description: Purple to purple-pink and creamy white to greenish-yellow
Sun: Full sun
Water: Dry to medium
Maintenance: Low
Suggested Use: Naturalize
Flower: Showy
Attracts: Butterflies
Fruit: Showy, Edible
Tolerate: Drought, Dry Soil, Shallow-Rocky Soil


Best grown in evenly moist to dry, well-drained, sandy loams in full sun. Tolerant of drought. Intolerant of root disturbance. Avoid transplanting or division. Hardy in Zones 3-6.

Noteworthy Characteristics

Astragalus crassicarpus, commonly called ground plum, is a herbaceous, taprooted perennial native to prairies, fields, roadsides, glades, bluff tops, and rocky, woodland openings in the central and western United States and Canada. Mature plants will reach 0.25-1.5' tall with a 0.75-1.5' spread. Prostrate to upright stems emerge from a branched, woody base. The 2-4.75" long, pinnately compound leaves have 15-27 pairs of oblanceolate to elliptic, 0.5" long leaflets with a layer of hairs on the undersides. Cylindrical to bell-shaped, 0.75" long flowers bloom in spring or early summer in 1.5-3" tall, spike-like, axilary racemes. The flowers range in color from purple to purple-pink or creamy white to greenish-yellow. The flowers are followed by 0.5-1" long and 0.5-0.75" wide, ovoid to rounded, reddish-tinged, fleshy, inflated, beaked seed pods. Various groups of indigenous Americans including the Chippewa, Dakota, Lakota and Montana used the fruits as food and medicine. The flowers are attractive to butterflies and other pollinators. It is a host plant for the afranius duskywing and clouded sulfur butterflies. The fruits are cached and eaten by rodents.

The genus name Astragalus comes from Greek meaning "ankle bone". Various sources list this as reference to the appearance of the roots, seeds, or inflorescences.

The specific epithet crassicarpus comes from Greek and Latin meaning "thick fruited", in reference to the fleshy seedpods of this species.

The common name ground plum refers to the tendency of the fruits of this species to be found close to or resting on the ground and their superficial resemblance to small European plums.


No major pest or disease problems of note.


Prairie plantings, rock gardens, native gardens, pollinator gardens. The fresh pods can be eaten raw, cooked, or pickled. The flavor is said to be sweet and similar to peas. Although the seedpods are edible, some species of Astragalus are highly toxic and care should be taken when identifying this plant. All other parts of this plant are poisonous.