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.

Wow.

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.

2 comments:

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!