Cicer milkvetch seed pods.

I am fascinated by the black mature seed pods of Cicer milkvetch (syn. chickpea milkvetch, Astralagus cicer), an aggressively-spreading legume that was originally introduced to North America from Europe with the idea that it would serve as a good foraging and hay crop.  Cicer milkvetch is now naturalizing in many areas, and while the plant doesn’t have a provincial designation as of yet in the Alberta Weed Control Act, it is listed as one to watch on the Alberta Invasive Plant Council’s website (check out the fact sheet for cicer milkvetch here).   The black seed pods rattle loudly when you shake them, and supposedly contain large orange seeds (although I haven’t opened up any cases to confirm).   I think they would make interesting accents in a floral craft project.

I know many of you use plants in crafting and art – what types of projects do you like to make?   Do you gather plants from your garden, or forage for them in the wild?   


Cicer milkvetch, West Campus Park, northwest Calgary



Aggressive?  Who, me?


  1. Great timing on this post. We walked through a field of these plants on the weekend and our children have been shaking their finds ever since.

  2. I’ve never seen this type of plant. But, very neat looking. If animals don’t eat them, then I can see how they can be considered an invasive plant. Perhaps they’d look neat in a bowl or tall glass canister for decoration. 😀

    • I think the ranchers don’t use them much because they take a long time to establish – much longer than a crop like alfalfa. Now they’re spreading….

      I agree with you, a whole bunch of seed pods would look lovely in a glass container…they are very striking, aren’t they? Fabulous idea! 🙂

    • I’m going to try to find out where they are distributed in North America – I wonder if they grow anywhere near you. Much as I like the way they look, they wouldn’t be something I’d want anywhere near my yard!

  3. I love vetch flowers – I have the pink ones here but usually manage to pull them out before they go to seed! These look Really aggressive! In a couple of weeks I shall look out for some Euonymus seed heads to put in a vase. I’m not much good at “crafts” though!

    • Is it Euonymus europaeus that you’re collecting? Euonymus alatus is probably the one that is most often found here, but even so, I think more people should grow them – they’re so pretty! I’m with you about the crafts – I’m not good with them, either! But I do like bringing flowers and grasses and other interesting plant bits inside for making arrangements.

  4. I’ve also never seen this plant. It has a really interesting look (though your statement about it being aggressive makes me glad that it doesn’t grow around here).

    • It’s definitely pretty – but I can see how it will become a problem in the future. I’ve only so far seen it in two areas, the one that I photographed here in the southern part of the province, and a small patch up in the north. I’m curious how wide its distribution is – I wonder if it grows all over North America?

    • Yes, apparently it is considered a “non-bloating” pasture legume (I gather that means it doesn’t bother the stomachs of cattle etc.). I read that there are a few new varieties being tested out by ranchers that don’t take as long to establish as the species. I don’t know how widespread its use is here, however – and I suspect that the plant’s aggression may cause it to end up on the “noxious” banned list in the future.

  5. I rarely do craft projects but last year I framed dried leaves and flowers as gifts. Wanted to say thanks for posting about this plant – I wasn’t sure what it was growing in our field but now I know it’s a type of vetch thanks to this post (ours has purple flowers).

    • Those are lovely and thoughtful gifts!

      Cicer milkvetch has yellow-white flowers…I looked it up and it looks like common vetch and purple vetch (of course) both have purple flowers. I’ve seen purple-flowered ones, too, but I don’t know what species they are. They’re very pretty, even if they are aggressive.

      Have a wonderful weekend! 🙂

  6. Hello,

    Just thought I’d add my two bits.

    I had Cicer Milkvetch “show up” in my front yard (it’s all garden, no lawn) a few years ago.
    No idea how it got there….

    It isn’t aggressive at all!
    WAY less invasive than Lily-of-the Valley, Dead Nettle, and the like.

    The only spreading it’s done in my yard, are the few plants (maybe four) that started from the seeds it dropped, and I didn’t bother to remove, since nothing really wanted to grow underneath the Mayday tree….

    As some folks have said, the seed pods are interesting!

    If you find some, give it a try.

    • Excellent to hear that it’s behaving nicely in your yard – it is certainly an attractive plant and I really love those seed pods. I’d be hesitant to plant it in my small space, though, and as it’s been given a “one to watch” status by our provincial Invasive Plant Council, I’d hate to put some in and have it end up on the noxious list of a future Alberta Weed Control Act. I love to hear these kinds of success stories, however – it just goes to show that plants don’t always behave in the manner that they are “supposed to.” So many factors can influence how they grow! Thanks so much for your comment – have a wonderful weekend!

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