Hedysarum alpinum L.

alpine sweet-vetch

Copyright: various copyright holders. To reuse an image, please click it to see who you will need to contact.

New England Distribution

Adapted from BONAP data

Found this plant? Take a photo and post a sighting.

North America Distribution

Adapted from BONAP data

enlarge

Facts About

Alpine sweet-vetch has a circumboreal distribution and is found across northern North America. It enters New England only in Maine and Vermont, where it inhabits ice-scoured riversides, cliffs and talus slopes, and subalpine ravines on high-pH rock or till. The taproot is traditionally eaten by arctic peoples.

Habitat

Alpine or subalpine zones, cliffs, balds, or ledges, shores of rivers or lakes

Characteristics

Habitat
terrestrial
Flower petal color
  • blue to purple
  • pink to red
  • white
Leaf type
the leaves are compound (made up of two or more discrete leaflets
Leaf arrangement
alternate: there is one leaf per node along the stem
Leaf blade edges
the edge of the leaf blade is entire (has no teeth or lobes)
Flower symmetry
there is only one way to evenly divide the flower (the flower is bilaterally symmetrical)
Number of sepals, petals or tepals
  • there are five petals, sepals, or tepals in the flower
  • there are four petals, sepals, or tepals in the flower
Fusion of sepals and petals
the petals or the sepals are fused into a cup or tube
Stamen number
10
Fruit type (general)
the fruit is dry but does not split open when ripe
Fruit length
5–35 mm
Show All Characteristics
  • Clonal plantlets
    Bulbils
    the plant does not appear to have bulbils
    Bulblets replace flowers
    there are no bulblets where the flowers are located
  • Flowers
    Anther opening
    the anthers have narrow slits or furrows that run lengthwise along the anthers
    Anther spurs
    the anthers do not have spurs on them
    Calyx symmetry
    there are two or more ways to evenly divide the calyx (the calyx is radially symmetrical)
    Carpels fused
    • NA
    • the carpel is solitary or (if 2 or more) the carpels are not fused to one another
    Cleistogamous flowers
    there are no cleistogamous flowers on the plan
    Corolla morphology
    NA
    Corolla palate
    no
    Corona lobe length
    0 mm
    Epicalyx
    the flower does not have an epicalyx
    Epicalyx number of parts
    0
    Filament surface
    the filament is smooth, with no hairs or scales
    Flower description
    the flower has a superior ovary and a hypanthium
    Flower length
    12–18 mm
    Flower number
    20–60
    Flower orientation
    • the flower bends downwards or hangs downwards
    • the flower points upwards or is angled outwards
    Flower petal color
    • blue to purple
    • pink to red
    • white
    Flower reproductive parts
    the flower has both pollen- and seed-producing parts
    Flower symmetry
    there is only one way to evenly divide the flower (the flower is bilaterally symmetrical)
    Flowers sunken into stem
    no
    Form of style
    the style is narrow at the tip and unbranched
    Fused stamen clusters
    there are two clusters of fused stamens
    Fusion of sepals and petals
    the petals or the sepals are fused into a cup or tube
    Hairs on flower stalk
    • the flower stalk has hairs on it
    • the flower stalk has no hairs on it
    Hairs on inflorescence
    • the axis of the inflorescence has hairs entirely without glands
    • the axis of the inflorescence has no hairs on it
    Horns in hoods (Asclepias)
    NA
    Hypanthium
    the flower has a hypanthium
    Inflorescence length
    60–150 mm
    Inflorescence one-sided
    the flowers are all or nearly all arrayed on one side of the inflorescence axis or branches of the inflorescence
    Inner tepals (Rumex)
    NA
    Length of peduncle
    80–150 mm
    Marks on petals
    there are no noticeable marks on the petals
    Nectar spur
    the flower has no nectar spurs
    Number of carpels
    1
    Number of pistils
    1
    Number of sepals, petals or tepals
    • there are five petals, sepals, or tepals in the flower
    • there are four petals, sepals, or tepals in the flower
    Number of styles
    1
    Ovary position
    the ovary is above the point of petal and/or sepal attachment
    Petal and sepal arrangement
    the flower includes two cycles of petal- or sepal-like structures
    Petal and sepal colors
    • blue to purple
    • pink to red
    • white
    Petal appearance
    the petals are thin and delicate, and pigmented (colored other than green or brown)
    Petal folding in bud
    the petals in bud are arranged in a cycle with edges overlapping like roof shingles (imbricate)
    Petal folds or pleats
    • the petals of the flower do not have folds or plaits
    • the petals of the flower have folds or plaits on them
    Petal hairs (Viola)
    NA
    Petal length
    12–15 mm
    Petal length relative to sepals
    the petals are longer than the sepals
    Petal number
    5
    Petal tips (Cuscuta)
    NA
    Raceme attachment (Veronica)
    NA
    Reproductive system
    all the flowers have both carpels and stamens (synoecious)
    Scales inside corolla
    no
    Sepal and petal color
    the sepals are different from the petals
    Sepal appearance
    the sepals are green or brown, and leaf-like in texture
    Sepal appendages
    the sepals do not have appendages on them
    Sepal appendages (Oenothera)
    NA
    Sepal color
    • green to brown
    • pink to red
    Sepal number
    5
    Sepal orientation
    the sepals are slightly curved outwards from the corolla
    Sepal relative length
    • the sepal lobes are approximately the same length as the fused portion
    • the sepal lobes are shorter than the fused portion
    Sepal shape
    the sepal outline is roughly triangular
    Sepal texture
    the sepals are either very thin but flexible, like a membrane, or they are leaf-like in texture
    Sepal tip shape
    the sepal tip is acute (is sharply pointed)
    Sepal uniformity
    all the sepals are about the same size
    Sepals fused only to sepals
    the sepals are fused to each other (not other flower parts), at least near their bases
    Stamen lengths differ
    the stamens are all approximately the same length
    Stamen number
    10
    Stamens fused
    the stamens are attached to one another at or near their bases
    Staminodes
    there are no staminodes on the flower
    Style petal-like
    the styles are not petal-like
    Umbel flower reproductive parts
    NA
    Upper lip of bilabiate corolla
    NA
  • Fruits or seeds
    Achene relative orientation
    NA
    Achene shape
    NA
    Achene surface (Polygonum)
    NA
    Achene type
    NA
    Berry color
    NA
    Capsule color (Viola)
    NA
    Capsule ribs
    NA
    Capsule splitting
    • NA
    • the capsule splits by two main valves, teeth or pores
    Fruit (pyxis) dehiscence
    NA
    Fruit cross-section
    the fruit is at least somewhat flattened
    Fruit features (Brassicaceae)
    NA
    Fruit length
    5–35 mm
    Fruit locules
    one
    Fruit shape
    • the fruit is flat or strongly compressed
    • the fruit is obloid (longer than wide and with rounded ends)
    Fruit type (general)
    the fruit is dry but does not split open when ripe
    Fruit type (specific)
    the fruit is a schizocarp (when dry it splits into sections, each holding one or more seeds)
    Legumes (Fabaceae)
    the legume has none of the mentioned special features
    Mericarp length
    5–7 mm
    Mericarp segment shape (Desmodium)
    NA
    Other markings on berry
    NA
    Ovary stipe
    the ovary or fruit has a stipe
    Placenta arrangement
    the plant has parietal placentation, where ovules develop on the wall or slight outgrowths of the wall forming broken partitions within a compound ovary
    Rows of seeds in fruit (Brassicaceae)
    NA
    Schizocarpic fruit compression
    the fruit is flattened perpendicular to the commissure
    Schizocarpic fruit segments
    2–5
    Seed number
    2–5
    Septum in fruit (Brassicaceae)
    NA
    Wings on fruit
    the fruit does not have wings on it
    prickles on fruits
    the fruits do not have thorn-like defensive structures
  • Glands or sap
    Glands on leaf blade
    the leaf blades do not have glandular dots or scales
    Sap
    the sap is clear and watery
    Sap color
    the sap is clear
  • Growth form
    Growth form
    the plant is an herb (it has self-supporting stems)
    Lifespan
    the plant lives more than two years
    Parasitism
    the plant is not parasitic
    Plant color
    the leaves or young stems of the plant are green
    Plants darken when dry
    no
    Spines on plant
    the plant has no spines
    Underground organs
    there is a thickened taproot on the plant
  • Leaves
    Bracteole number (Apiaceae)
    0
    Bracteoles
    the plant has bracteoles between the primary bracts and the flowers
    Bracts in plantain (Plantago)
    NA
    Final leaf segment length (compound lvs only)
    10–25 mm
    Final leaf segment length to width ratio (compound lvs only)
    3–4.5
    Final leaf segment width (compound lvs only)
    4–10 mm
    Floral bracts
    the flower has one or more bracts associated with it
    Flower bract length
    1.5–3 mm
    Hairs on underside of leaf
    • the underside of the leaf is fuzzy or hairy
    • the underside of the leaf is not hairy, or it has very few hairs
    Hairs on upper side of leaf
    the upper side of the leaf is not hairy, or it has very few hairs
    Leaf arrangement
    alternate: there is one leaf per node along the stem
    Leaf blade base
    the leaf has a distinct leaf stalk (petiole)
    Leaf blade base shape
    the base of the leaf blade is rounded
    Leaf blade base symmetry
    the leaf blade base is symmetrical
    Leaf blade edges
    the edge of the leaf blade is entire (has no teeth or lobes)
    Leaf blade length
    50–150 mm
    Leaf blade primary vein pattern
    the secondary veins branch off at intervals from the primary vein
    Leaf blade shape
    • the leaf blade is lanceolate (lance-shaped; widest below the middle and tapering at both ends)
    • the leaf blade is oblong (rectangular but with rounded ends)
    Leaf blade surface colors
    the upper side of the leaf blade is relatively uniform in color
    Leaf blade texture
    the leaf blade is herbaceous (has a leafy texture)
    Leaf blade veins
    the leaf blade has one main vein running from the base towards the tip (it may or may not have secondary veins)
    Leaf blade width
    4–10 mm
    Leaf duration
    the leaves drop off in winter (or they whither but persist on the plant)
    Leaf form
    the leaves are green, with an expanded blade and a leaf-like texture
    Leaf shiny
    the upper side of the leaf is dull or slightly shiny
    Leaf spines
    there are no spines on the leaf edges
    Leaf stalk
    the leaves have leaf stalks
    Leaf teeth and lobes
    the edge of the leaf blade is entire (has no teeth or lobes)
    Leaf tip
    • the tip of the leaf blade is acute (sharply pointed)
    • the tip of the leaf blade is obtuse (bluntly pointed)
    Leaf type
    the leaves are compound (made up of two or more discrete leaflets
    Leaf types
    There is a gradual change in appearance of the leaves from the base (or near the base) of the plant to those from further up on the stem, with leaves progressively changing as one moves higher on the stem (often becoming shorter, or less toothed/lobed, and/or with shorter petioles).
    Leaf variation
    the leaves are nearly similar in size, prominence of teeth, and length of stalks throughout the stem
    Leaflet number
    7–31
    Leaves per node
    there is one leaf per node along the stem
    Pinnately compound leaf type
    the pinnately compound leaves have a terminal leaflet (and usually have an odd number of leaflets per axis)
    Specific leaf type
    the leaf has a row of two or more lobes on each side of the central axis
    Stipels
    there are no stipels at the bases of the petiolules
    Stipule features
    NA
    Stipule fused to leaf stalk
    the stipules are fused to the petioles for some or most of their length
    Stipules
    the plant has stipules
    Teeth per side of leaf blade
    0
  • Place
    Habitat
    terrestrial
    Specific habitat
    • alpine or subalpine zones
    • cliffs, balds, or ledges
    • shores of rivers or lakes
  • Stem, shoot, branch
    Branched tendrils
    NA
    Hair between stem nodes
    • the stem has hairs between the nodes
    • the stem has no hairs between the nodes
    Leaves on stem
    there is at least one full leaf above the base of the flowering stem
    Plant height
    20–60 cm
    Stem orientation
    • the stems are upright or angled outwards
    • the stems trail at the base, but may turn upwards at the tips
    Stem spacing
    the plant is growing in tufts, or compact clusters with closely spaced stems, or it is densely matted together in clumps, cushionlike
    Tendril origin
    NA
    Tendrils
    the plant does not have tendrils

Wetland Status

Occurs in wetlands or non-wetlands. (Wetland indicator code: FAC)

New England Distribution and Conservation Status

Distribution

Connecticut
absent
Maine
present
Massachusetts
absent
New Hampshire
absent
Rhode Island
absent
Vermont
present

Conservation Status

Exact status definitions can vary from state to state. For details, please check with your state.

Maine
uncommon (S-rank: S3)
Massachusetts
unranked (S-rank: SNR)
Vermont
extremely rare (S-rank: S1)

var. americanum

Maine
uncommon (S-rank: S3), special concern (code: SC)

Native to North America?

Yes

Sometimes Confused With

Oxytropis campestris:
fruit a legume, raceme with spirally arranged flowers, and plants with leaves confined to the base of the plant (vs. H. alpinum, with the fruit a schizocarp, raceme with second flowers, and plants with leafy stems).

Synonyms

  • Hedysarum alpinum L. var. americanum Michx.
  • Hedysarum americanum (Michx.) Britt.

Family

Fabaceae

Genus

Hedysarum

Notes on Subspecies and Varieties in New England

Our subspecies is Hedysarum alpinum L. ssp. americanum.

Need Help?

Get Help

Information from Dichotomous Key of Flora Novae Angliae

1.  Hedysarum alpinum L. ssp. americanum (Michx.) Fedtsch. N

alpine sweet-vetch. Hedysarum alpinum L. var. americanum Michx.; H. americanum (Michx.) Britt. • ME, VT; also reported from MA by Seymour (1982) and from RI by Isely (1998), but specimens are unknown. Ice-scoured river shores, cliffs, talus, and subalpine ravines in 
regions of high-pH bedrock and/or till. The reports of this species for MA and RI were almost certainly in error given that habitat is lacking in those states for this calciphile. The report from NH by Magee and Ahles (1999) is based on the following collection: White Mts., Aug, unknown s.n. ( MASS!). This specimen, formerly of the Bumstead Herbarium, almost certainly represents a label mix-up.