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ARS Home » Pacific West Area » Logan, Utah » Pollinating Insect-Biology, Management, Systematics Research » Research » Publications at this Location » Publication #261020

Title: Breeding biology of the threadstalk milkvetch, Astragalus filipes (Fabaceae), with a review of the genus

item WATROUS, KRISTAL - Utah State University
item Cane, James

Submitted to: American Midland Naturalist
Publication Type: Peer Reviewed Journal
Publication Acceptance Date: 9/14/2010
Publication Date: 4/1/2011
Citation: Watrous, K.M., Cane, J.H. 2011. Breeding biology of the threadstalk milkvetch, Astragalus filipes (Fabaceae), with a review of the genus. American Midland Naturalist. 165:225-240.

Interpretive Summary: Locoweeds comprise the largest genus of flowering plant, but breeding biologies and pollinators are known for less than 1% of the species. We tabulate that literature, finding that their breeding biologies vary widely between species. We present data from manual pollination experiments showing that the threadstem milkvetch is weakly self-fertile, but it is far more productive with cross-pollination. It attracts a diversity of mostly non-social native bees in the Great Basin. This species is now being farmed for seed for post-fire rehabilitation. It will need suitable pollinating bees to be productive.

Technical Abstract: Astragalus L. (Fabaceae) is an enormous and diverse plant genus with a cosmopolitan distribution, but relatively few breeding biologies are known for its member species. Threadstalk (or basalt) milkvetch, Astragalus filipes Torrey ex. A. Gray, is common and widespread throughout the US Intermountain West, including the Great Basin. It is being studied and ultimately propagated for extensive rangeland restoration projects throughout the sagebrush steppe. Understanding the breeding biology of A. filipes will be necessary for reliable and consistent commercial seed production with this species. We examined reproductive output from four manual pollination treatments (autogamy, geitonogamy, xenogamy and distant xenogamy) in a common garden. As measures of fitness, we counted fruit and seed set, then germinated viable seeds, to assess reproductive output. This species is weakly self compatible; xenogamous pollen transfer results in nine times more seed per pollination. Pollen transfer between geographically distant seed accessions resulted in a decrease in seed germination, but no difference in fruit or seed set. Cross pollination by bees will be necessary for copious seed production by this species. In the wild, flowers of A. filipes are visited most commonly and ubiquitously by a diversity of Osmia bee species plus several bee species each of Eucera, Anthidium, Bombus and sometimes Hoplitis.