Fabaceae: Pea Family — Astragalus (Milkvetch / Locoweed)
The pea family has 5-petaled flowers, consisting of a wide upper banner petal, two wing petals, plus two lower petals which are fused to form a boat-shaped keel. Many produce heads or spikes, consisting of multiple individual flowers (examples are lupines and clovers). The seed pod is generally a “legume”. This is a long, flattish pod, swollen by the seeds, and splitting lengthwise along both the top and bottom.
Astragalus is a varied genus with many species, especially in the desert and towards the Central Valley. Distinguishing them may require close attention to the number and color of leaflets, or to the shape and structure of the fruits, which may be inflated like a bladder.