17 August 2011

Psoralea is Scurf Pea, Wild Alfalfa, Slimleaf Scurfpea, Prairie Turnip

In the course of reading "Where the Sky Began" I'm looking up dozens of tallgrass prairie plants on Google Advanced Image Search to see what they look like and whether or not they grow in NE OK.

Also called Wild Alfalfa, Scurf Pea, Slimleaf Scurfpea and Prairie Turnip,they are legumes that grow woodland and woodland edges. They are probably an imported pea family member with summertime alfalfa-like blooms on spikes.

Silverleaf Psoralea

Late summer the stems break and the plant blows - it is related to tumbleweed. We know that tumbleweed is not native to the U.S. either.

 Plains Indians made tea from the roots and burned the plant as a mosquito repellent. And, evidently Psoralea is medicinally important in many cultures.

World Wide Science dot org has a gateway to Oklahoma tallgrass prairie articles and information (here) but nothing on this specific plant.

Oklahoma Panhandle State University has a cool site with wildflower photos - full plant, leaves, flowers, etc. Here's their link to Psoralea.

Psoralea mature fruit - photo from OK Panhandle State University
Take a look at these maps - one variety grows all over Italy, too.

Annie's Annuals calls Psoralea pinnata  Kool Aid Bush - this one is a zone 9 plant.
And, Prairie Moon has a map of the native range of many of its seeds/plants.
Prairie Moon - native range for Psoralea esculenta
Internet research reveals that quite a bit of university research is being done on the genus around the world.

Have you ever seen this growing? Have you tried to grow it in a wildlife patch? I'm thinking of buying some seeds to try in the back 40 - well I call it the back 40 - it's really just an acre.

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