This has such glorious flowers, so superb in color and form, that it is by far the handsomest of its kind and not to be mistaken for any other. The stout, smooth, stems are dark green, the stipules small, and the leaves are smooth, slightly thickish and stifnsh, rather dark bluish-green, with about ten leaflets. The flowers are over two inches long, from the tip of the standard to the end of the keel, and form a massive cluster of eight or ten blossoms, hanging on drooping pedicels and shading in color from the pale-salmon of the buds to the brilliant rose, carmine, and wine-color of the open flowers, the older flowers being very dark and rich. Only a small part of the flower-cluster is given in the picture. These plants, which are found around San Diego and farther south, clamber over the neighboring bushes to a height of several feet and adorn them with wonderful color, giving an effect of tropical splendor.
There are innumerable kinds of Astragalus; most abundant in Asia, usually perennial herbs, sometimes woody; leaves usually with numerous leaflets, flowers narrow, in spikes, with long flower-stalks; calyx tube-shaped, with nearly equal teeth; petals usually narrow, with slender claws, standard erect and somewhat oblong, wings oblong, keel with blunt tip, about the same length as the wings; stamens ten, in two sets of nine and one; pods numerous, more or less two-celled, often inflated, so the wind can distribute the small seeds, therefore these plants are often called Rattleweed. Another name is Milk Vetch and many kinds are called Loco-weed, from the word "loco," or crazy, because they are poisonous to horses and cattle. I was told by a cow-boy in Arizona that "horses eat this because it tastes sweet, but it gives them water on the brain and they die, unless the skull is split with an axe and the water is let out!"
Pride of California. Lathyrus splendens.