Sunday, June 2, 2013

Behold: Sainfoin; the Bubble-gum, Vetch-leafed Ass-gobble.

Is is a topical medication for the tender spot on your leg? 
Is it an incantation that summons a miniature man in a little green robe, looking confused?
Is it a social mistake that makes girls instantly turn away from you?

No- it's a plant.
A very pretty little plant.  Medium-size, maybe. Two feet.

Sainfoin- we shall call it Onobrychis viciifolia.   And that "scientific" name means 
"Vetch-leafed ass-gobble." 
And by that, probaby meaning "Chowed-down-upon by donkeys."

It took me a while to identify, because it was overlooked in Colorado Flora: Western Slope, meant to identify any plants which occur here.  But it was in Intermountain Flora.  The wierd seeds proved that it was not a normal pea-family local.

I first saw it last year in a barren lot  around Grand Junction's now long-empty institution I remember as a kid: "Gator's Restaurant" on the Southeast corner of the I-70 Business loop and 30 Roads.  
A Bubblegum-pink bushy thing waved at me, blooming for a long time in a truly crisp vacant lot.

Ferengi-style seedpods of the Sainfoin. (Don't feel bad missing a Star-Trek reference)

It's not rare, and it's not native.  It's a dryland-asian (Like all the good forage crops)  used by rangeland managers in the same manner as its similarly-shaped relative:  Alfalfa, Medicago sativa.   (Also Asian and dry-growing)

What intrests me about it is this:
1. It's beautiful.   Look at those striped banners.  They are literally, botanically called banners.
2. It's tougher than heck.  Look where it's growing.
3.  It seems to rebloom or bloom for a long time.


But, it could be a weed in a cultivated setting.  Does anyone know?  Hard to know for sure when it's not even in our local floristic books.  Stay tuned, for this baby's going to get trialed as a showy landscape plant for the inirrigated landscape.  
I'm not below growing something as common as alfalfa when it's this good.


Acantholimon said...

Much more compact that it has been for us: it can grow nearly a yard tall in good soil with a bit of watering. I have seen acres of this in Montana and Canada--positively glowing this time of year. Timberline once grew it as "Astragalus sp." until someone pointed it out! I find it rarely lasts more than a few years in garden settings. It has never been weedy for me. There are many more gorgeous Onobrychis in Asia (notably O. cornuta--which I also grew for many years and miss terribly). I do love the striated flowers: see you later this week?

ineedacupoftea said...

Brilliant. Thanks for the additional info- I look forward to learning more background like that from you tomorrow morning!