SPECIES DESCRIPTION
ASTRAGALUS CRETICUS

Family:- LEGUMINOSAE/Subgen. TRAGACANTHA

Common Name:- None

Synonyms:- Astracantha cretica

Meaning:- Astragalus (Gr) Ankle-bone, (a plant with knotted roots).
                 Creticus (L) From Crete.
               
General description:- A perennial shrub with a low-habit, hummock-shaped and
with many branches.

Leaves:- Ending in a spine 20-50mm long, with 6-7 pairs  5-12 x 05-2 mm, linear-
lanceolate; stipules glabrous.

Flowers:- Yellow 10-12mm, and arranged in pairs in axils of leaves; bracts boat-
shaped like the prow of a canoe (navicular), lanceolate; bracteoles absent. Calyx 6-
10 mm, the teeth slightly shorter than or almost as long as tube. Standard 10-15
mm, the limb oblong, sometimes slightly constricted in the middle, with rounded
auricles at base.

Fruit:- Legume c. 5 mm, ovoid-ellipsoid, covered with long, shaggy hairs. (villous).

Key features:-
1) Standard with rounded auricles at base of limb.
2) Terminal spine of leaf much longer than terminal pair of leaflets.
3) Leaflets sparsely hairy or glabrescent.

Habitat:- Dry rocky slopes. (700-)1400-2300 m. generally on limestone, sometimes
a dominant constituent of thorncushion vegetaion.

Distribution:- Cretan Endemic. Confined to the three main massifs, where it is
locally common. Absent from Lefka Ori.

Flowering time:- End of June to mid-Aug.

Photos by:- Steve Lenton            

                         FAMILY AND GENUS DESCRIPTIONS

LEGUMINOSAE

General description:- Trees, shrubs or herbs.

Leaves:- Alternate, rarely opposite, simple to 2-pinnate, stipulate.

Flowers:- Usually hermaphrodite, usually 5-merous. Sepals usually united. Petals
free or somewhat united (connate). Stamens usually 10, sometimes less than 10 or
numerous. Ovary a single, single-celled (unilocular) carpel; style 1.

Fruit:- A dehiscent (splitting open to release the seeds), 2-valved or indehiscent,
occasionally lomentaceous (a flat fruit, constricted between each seed) legume.
Seeds usually without endosperm.

A large number of species, both native and introduced, are cultivated for food, for
fodder and for ornament. Those most frequently utilized as food are to be found in
Cicer, Glycine, Glycyrrhiza, Lens, Pisum, Vicia and Vigna. The edible part is
usually the seed or legume, or both. Species of these genera and many others,
particularly in Anthyllis, Coronilla, Lathyrus, Lotus, Lupinus, Medicago, Melilotus,
Trifolium and Trigonella are cultivated for fodder on a large scale or are planted to
improve pasture.

ASTRAGALUS

General description:- Annual or perennial herbs or small shrubs.

Leaves:- unevenly or odd pinnate (imparipinnate) or evenly pinnate (paripinnate),
sometimes terminating in a spine; leaflets entire.

Flowers:- In racemes or axillary clusters, stemless or stemmed (sessile or
pedicellate). Calyx funnel-shaped (infundibuliform), tubular or bell-shaped
(campanulate), sometimes inflated in fruit, with distinct, equal or unequal teeth;
keel not ending abruptly in a very short, straight point (mucronate) at the apex (very
rarely adaxially mucronate); stamens 10, in two bundles and united by the
filaments (diadelphous) (very rarely 5, monadelphous); stigma and style glabrous.

Fruit:- Legume usually dehiscent, very varied in shape and texture, glabrous or
hairy, unilocular to bilocular. Seeds 1-many.

Key features:-
1) Stipules not forming spines.
2) Keel not dark red, black or beaked, but sometimes mucronate at the apex.
3) Leaves imparipinnate.
4) Umbels without an involucre.
5) Acaulescent herbs.
6) Mucro on the adaxial side of the keel.
7) Corolla c. 3 mm.
8) Stamens diadelphous.
9)  Style glabrous.

Descriptions of peduncles and racemes refer to their appearance at anthesis; when
the length of the peduncle is compared with the length of the leaf, the leaf
subtending it is intended.

Subgen. TRAGACANTHA

General description:- Perennials, woody at the base; hairs simple.

Leaves:- Paripinnate, the rhachis ending in a sharp spine; stipules attached to,
surface to surface (adnate) to the petiole for at least their length, but free from
each other.

Flowers:- In dense, sessile racemes in the axils of leaves, partly concealed by the
stipules, usually confined to the middle of the stem. Calyx not inflated in fruit,
hidden by its dense, covered with long, shaggy hairs (villous indumentum), the
teeth splitting to the base in fruit.

Fruit:- Legume c. 5 mm, ovoid-ellipsoid, villous.