Goat’s rue (Tephrosia virginica) is a rare native plant (in Rhode Island) that can be found at Wolf Hill Forest Preserve here in Smithfield. A member of the bean family (Fabaceae), goat’s rue is found in most U.S. states that are east of the Rockies, with the exception of Maine and Vermont. In the spring and summer, its contrasting pink and white pea-like flowers are quite showy. Goat’s rue has pinnate, oblong leaves and fuzzy, bean-like seed pods.
Goat’s rue earned its name because goats, which eat anything, are poisoned when they eat its roots. Some native peoples used the roots of goat’s rue as poison. It has a long taproot, which makes it very drought resistant, but that also means that it’s difficult to transplant. It’s easier to grow it from seed.
It’s a little odd to find goat’s rue at Wolf Hill, because it’s most commonly found in early successional habitats such as open woodlands, meadows, roadsides, or grasslands. Wolf Hill Forest Preserve for the most part is densely wooded–the goat’s rue makes its home near some of the more open areas that have been disturbed by power lines.
Another view of goat’s rue
Goat’s rue seed pods and leaves
Besides T. virginica, there’s another goat’s rue, also a member of the bean family, whose botanical name is Galega officinalis. Don’t confuse the two, as G. officinalis is actually an invasive plant that has been declared a noxious weed in some states.
On the Internet, there are a lot of goat’s rue remedies for different ailments, primarily increasing the flow of breast milk. But I just gave it a cursory glance and couldn’t tell which goat’s rue the herbal remedies are made from.
The “other” goat’s rue, G. officinalis
This was supposed to be a post about two rare natives, but I wanted to show a lot of photos of goat’s rue. So, my next post will be about another rare native, pale corydalis.
All photos of T. virginica courtesy of Kansas State University. Photo of G. officinalis courtesy of Wikipedia.