South Dakota Native Plant Research
Fabaceae : Astragalus crassicarpus

Fabaceae : Astragalus crassicarpus


Download Seed: The black seeds of ground plum are 2-3 mm long. (60 KB)

Download Seedling: Ground plum seedling grown in greenhouse from seed. (120 KB)

Download Vegetative: The leaves contain 15-27 leaflets. (1.1 MB)

Download Flowering: The flower is made up of wings and a clawed keel. (312 KB)

Download Fruiting: The ground plum begins producing legumes in May. (1.8 MB)

Family Name


Common Name

Buffalo bean, buffalo pea, ground plum

Native American Name

Dakota: Pte ta Wote, Lakota: pté tȟawóte


Astragalus crassicarpus is a perennial, prostrate to suberect herb, 11-60 cm in height, with many hair covered stems growing from a well branched caudex atop of a tap root. The alternate, compound leaves are pinnately dissected, 4-13 cm long, with 13-27 oblanceolate to linear leaflets, 3-17 mm long, 3-6 mm wide, with hairs that make them appear slightly grayish, with lanceolate stipules 3-8 mm long. The inflorescence is composed of axillary racemes of 5-25 bluish, purple or white with purple-tipped papilionaceous flowers on peduncles 2-10 cm long. The calyx tube is 6-9 mm long, with black and/or white stiff appressed hairs and teeth 1-4 mm long. The banner petal is notched, 16-24 mm long, the wings are 16-18 mm long, and the keel is 11-15 mm long and narrowed at the base. The fruit is a red to purple, globose, fleshy legume, 15 -25 mm long, resembling a plum. Ground plum blooms from April to June on prairie hillsides, along stream bank and in open woods throughout South Dakota.

Additional Notes

Ground plum is a showy addition to a native plant garden. The leaves begin erect and lay down as flowering progresses. The fruit are very colorful and are edible early on. As the season progresses they become woody, resembling small walnuts. Dry fruit filled with seed from the previous season can often be found around each plant in the spring.

Horticulture Notes

Seed Collection: Collect seed pods in mid to late summer.

Germination: The seed coat prevents germination. Fall sowing or scarification, by chipping the seedcoat with the point of a sharp small knife, and then spring sowing will allow germination.

Soils: Very adaptable to most soil types. Best on well drained sites.

Light: Full sun,

Water: Dry to moist

Fabaceae : Astragalus crassicarpus