Home of the Practically Perfect Pink Phlox and other native plants for pollinators

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Wildflower Wednesday: Goat's Rue, A Fabulous Fabaceae

Isn't this a cool flower!

It's Tephrosia virginiana also known as Goat's Rue and it's our Wildflower Wednesday star of the month. It's blooming in my garden and the fuchsia pink, creamy white and yellow blooms that resemble sweet peas are striking against the silvery stems and leaves.
hairy stems and buds
I am delighted and surprised that it is blooming in my garden. It is said to prefer sandy, loamy, acidic soil and as you all know that is no where near a good description of the soil at Clay and Limestone! It's been  growing nicely for the last two years on the rocky edge of the Susan's Garden and the asphalt driveway. A taprooted plant, it's anchored itself firmly into the ground, so I must be doing something right to make this beauty happy!
pale yellow to cream standards and fuchsia pink wings
It's only about a foot tall now and in order for me to look into the face of the pretty flowers I have to sit on the driveway! I don't mind at all. I am just so happy it's happy here.
the telltale pinnate leaves of a pea family member
Traditionally, the plant had been used to treat many ailments such as tuberculosis, rheumatism, and bladder troubles, but since it contains rotenone which is now known to be toxic (especially to fish and insects) it is no longer used as a homeopathic medicine.

Be not afraid of this pretty! Goat's Rue is a pollinator attractive plant! The nectar and pollen of the flowers attract leaf-cutting bees (Megachile spp., Hoplitis spp.) and possibly other long-tongued bees. The caterpillars of the skipper, Thorybes bathyllus (Southern Cloudywing), feed on the foliage of Goat's Rue and other species in the Bean family. (source)


Family: Fabaceae, the third largest plant family.  An easy family to id if you remember these key words~ "banner, wings, and keel" and pea-like pods, often with pinnate leave.

Flowering: May sometimes into June
Habitat: Rocky open woods, glades, prairies. Mesic soil, acidic ph.
Origin-Native to Eastern U.S. and Canada
Hardiness zones- 3a to 9b
Size- 1 to 2 feet with a tap root that makes it difficult to move.
Flower- Pea-like with pale yellow to cream standards and fuchsia pink wings.
Wildlife value- Food for birds, bees visit for pollen and nectar, butterflies and skippers for nectar.
Garden use: Wildflower gardens and natural gardens.

My dear friends, you have to give this cutie pie a try...You can get seeds from Prairie Moon Nursery, please follow their instructions because establishing this plant from seed might be difficult~You will need inoculum and they provide it free.  Also available from Everwild Farms I can't divide it to share~It has that tap-root.


Wildflower Wednesday is about sharing wildflowers and other native plants no matter where one gardens~the UK, tropical Florida, Europe, Australia, Africa, South America, India or the coldest reaches of Canada. It doesn't matter if we sometimes share the same plants. How they grow and thrive in your garden is what matters most.

I hope you join the celebration..It's always the fourth Wednesday of the month!

Gail Eichelberger is a gardener and therapist in Middle Tennessee. She loves wildflowers and native plants and thoroughly enjoys writing about the ones she grows at Clay and Limestone. She reminds all that the words and images are the property of the author and cannot be used without written permission.


  1. Beautiful!
    Happy Wildflower Wednesday!

  2. That's a beauty Gail...too bad I have no sandy soil...only hard clay!

    1. I do, too, Donna, I had to amend the soil a bit.

  3. I love that shade of pink. Like lipstick! I think I could find a place for this one.

    1. I hope you do Layanee, it's really cool and even after it blooms there are those nice seed pods.

  4. It's a nice 'wildflower', very ornamental!

  5. How very beautiful. I popped by from Lea's blog today.

  6. Another plant with a wide range of zones: These types of plants truly amaze me. The resemblance to Sweet Peas is quite evident. Thanks for hosting this wonderful meme, Gail!

  7. This is one I'm not familiar with. It's a beauty, and I love the foliage.

  8. Interesting plant. I must check to see if it grows in this area.

  9. Gail, This is a beautiful flower. When I read the particulars, it seemed like something that would thrive more in my acidic glacial sand than in your clay and limestone -- but I've never seen it before. So I looked it up on the USDA plants database, and although it is native throughout the eastern U.S., it's never been documented in Maine or Vermont (or Quebec or the Maritimes) and it's listed as endangered in New Hampshire. I wonder what keeps it from growing well in northern New England. -Jean

  10. Your Goat's Rue is so lovely. I view it wistfully since I tried to start it from seed a couple of years ago and didn't succeed. Maybe I will try again someday. I love the legume ferny foliage and the color of the flower. It seemed to me it would be very tough.

  11. That is a beautiful flower, Gail. I want some in my garden Putting it on my "seeds to order" list now...

  12. Another new one to me! Such pretty little blooms, but I like the foliage as well.

  13. Caught my wildflowers today.

    I have some pea flowers on my wish list, and some hopeful little ones in pots.

    1. sorry Gail, can you kill number 11?
      Late at night typos get me.

  14. I hope you enjoy my post - I have a love affair with wild flowers. Lovely post about a charming plant.

  15. What a fabulous plant. I love all the dainty pea flowers.

  16. Well well, so that's the plant I picked up at the Garden Club meeting! Very charming, I'm glad I brought it home!

  17. I've seen goat's rue before, at the NCBG! Glad to see it's thriving in your garden. It is a charming and beautiful plant.

  18. I was looking at this plant a few months ago. I don't think I can do seeds. Hopefully I'll find a plant in my future. It's pink after all. :)


Let us be grateful to people who make us happy;
they are the charming gardeners
who make our souls blossom.