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Galega sp.

Contributed by: Dr. Alex Lasseigne; Dept. of Biological Sciences; Nicholls State University; Thibodaux, LA 70310. U.S. Department of Agriculture APHIS-PPQ. Noxious weeds of the Federal Noxious Weed Act, No. 26

Family Name: Fabaceae [Leguminosae]

Genus Name: Galega L., sp. Pl. 714. 1753. Type species: Galega officinalis L., Sp. Pl. 714. 1753.

Generic Description
Plants perennial, ascending, robust, much-branched, glaborous to pubescent herbs.  Leaves compound (odd-pinnate), alternate, petiolate; stipules herbaceous, sagittate; leaflets 6-12 pairs + a terminal leaflet, ovate to elliptic, rarely obovate, margins entire, apices acute to obtuse, rarely rounded, mucronate, bases rounded to cuneate, rarely oblique.  Inflorescence a many-flowered, pedunculate (peduncles longer than the leaves), axillary or terminal raceme; bracts linear, 3-5 mm long; bracteoles absent.  Flowers zygomorphic, perfect; calyx tubular-campanulate, with 5 subequal teeth; corolla blue, lilac, or white, papilionaceous, the petals subequal (standard obovate-oblong, narrowed below into a short claw; wings oblong, slightly joined to the blunt, subobtuse, incurved keel); stamens 10, more or less monadelphous (filaments fused into a tube split at the top), the anthers uniform or alternately larger and smaller, elliptic, dorsifixed; ovary sessile, many-ovuled, the style incurved, the stigma small, terminal.  Legume semierect, linear-cylindric, torulose, tipped by the remnant style, dehiscent, 2-valved, the valves slender, obliquely striate, continuous within, sometimes constricted between the seeds; seeds several to many, transversely oblong.

Explanatory Notes
Clapham et al. (1962) reported the genus as containing three species of southern Europe and western Asia.  Willis (1980), on the other hand, listed a Galega composed of six species,  three from the Mediterranean region to Iran and three indigenous to tropical East Africa.  Bailey and Bailey (1976) and Allen and Allen (1981) both reported 6-8 species for the genus, including the East African plants.  This sort of disagreement in such a small group would seem to indicate a need for revisionary work in the genus.

One of the species, Galega officinalis, is on the list of weeds for the Federal Noxious Weed Act.  The genus as a whole can be identified by having robust, much-branched stems; odd-pinnate leaves with 6-12 pairs of leaflets (+ a terminal one); many-flowered, long-pedunculate, axillary or terminal racemes; blue, lilac, or white papilionaceous flowers; more or less monadelphous stamens (filaments fused into a tube split at the top); and dehiscent, linear-cylindric, torulose legumes with slender, obliquely striate valves.

Species Name: Galega Officinalis L., Sp. Pl. 714. 1753.

Synonyms
Galega patula Stev., Bull. Soc. Nat. Mosc. 29:140. 1856.
Galega bicolor Hausskn. in Sched. 1865.
Galega coronilloides Freyn & Sint., Ost. Bot. Zeitschr. 43:413. 1893.
Galega bicolor Heusskn. var. hartlandii Hort. ex K. Forst.

Common Names
Galega officinalis has been variously called French lilac, goat's rue, goatsrue, and professor weed, with goatsrue being the name accepted by the Federal Noxious Weed Act.

Description
Robust, perennial, much-branched herbs; leaves odd-pinnate, alternate; leaflets 4-10 pairs + a terminal leaflet; inflorescence a many-flowered, pedunculate raceme; corolla white to purplish, papilionaceous the petals subequal; stamens more or less monadelphous (filaments fused into a tube split at the top); legume semierect, linear-cylindric, torulose, obliquely striate; seeds transversely oblong with raised lens and micropylar region and oblique furrow on each face.

Plants perennial, ascending, robust, glabrous to sparsely pubescent herbs 0.4-1.5 m tall; stems much-branched, hollow.  Leaves compound (odd-pinnate), alternate, petiolate; stipules herbaceous, 1/2 sagittate, extending 6-10 mm above and 3-5 mm below the point of attachment; leaflets 4-10 pairs + a terminal leaflet, oblong, elliptic, lanceolate, or ovate-oblong, 15-50 mm long X 4-15 mm broad, margins entire, apices mostly acute, rarely obtuse, mucronate or emarginate, bases mostly cuneate.  Inflorescence a 30- to 50-flowered, pedunculate, axillary or terminal receme; peduncle as long as or longer than the subtending leaf, 7-10 cm in flower, elongating in fruit; bracts persistent, linear-subulate, 3-5 mm long; bracteoles absent.  Flowers zygomorphic, perfect; calyx tubular-campanulate, gibbous at base on upper side, glabrous to sparsely pubescent, with 5 linear to setaceous, subequal teeth 2-3 mm long (ca. as long as the tube); corolla white, lilac, or purple, papilionaceous, 10-15 mm long, the petals subequal (standard obovate-oblong, narrowed below into a short claw; wings oblong, slightly joined to the blunt, subobtuse keel); stamens 10, more or less monadelphous (filaments fused into a 3-6 mm long tube split at the top), the anthers small, uniform or alternately longer and smaller, elliptic, dorsifixed; ovary sessile, many-ovuled, the style incurved, the stigma small terminal.  Legume semierect, linear-cylindric, 20-50 mm long X 2-3 mm wide, torulose, tipped by the remnant style, dehiscent, 2-valved, the valves slender, obliquely striate, continuous within, sometimes constricted between the seeds; seeds 2-10, transversely oblong with raised lens and micropylar region and with an oblique furrow on each face near the lens, 3-4.5 mm long X 1-1.5 mm in diameter, reddish-brown to dark brown, with the embryo clearly apparent.

diagram

Figure
Galega officinalis.  A.  Top of plant, showing infloresceces (racemes) and compound leaves (0.65x);  B.  Stipule, showing attachement near middle (1.3x);  C.  Flower (papilionaceous) (5x);  D.  Seed, top and side views (9.75x;  E.  Old fruit, a legume (1.3x).

Source: Brooks s.n., Utah (US).

Distribution
Native of the Middle East, cultivated for fodder and for ornament and naturalized throughout most of Europe, western Asia, and western Pakistan.  Galega officinalis has also been reported from Argentina, Chile, Ecuador, and New Zealand.  In the United States, the species has been repeatedly collected in Cache Co., Utah.  Goatsrue is also represented by pre-1930 collections in Colorado, Connecticut, and New York, and 1960's collections from Maine and Pennsylvania, but it is doubtful that it still persists in these areas.

Economic Impact
Because of its adaptation to acid soil, Galega officinalis was at one time considered to be a plant of considerable promise as a forage and green manure crop in southern Europe.  Allen and Allen (1981) also reported the species being cultivated in Europe as a beeplant, but Clapham et al. (1962) stated that "the flowers are without nectar."  In Ancient Europe, it was used for fevers and the plague, for worms, and for snakebite.  The seeds, said to lower blood sugar levels, have also been used for diabetes.

Goatsrue is now considered to be a deep rooted, long-lived perennial weed which propagates by seeds.  In Chile, it is regarded as a serious weed in humid grasslands, where it may completely cover fields.  The plant was introduced into Utah in 1891 for testing as a forage, where it presumably escaped and now occupies about 60 square miles in Cache Co.  Within this area it infests cropland, fencelines, pastures, roadsides, water-ways, and wet, marshy areas (Evans and Ashcroft 1982).

Galega officinalis contains a poisonous alkaloid, galegin.  The plants have a bitter taste and are unpalatable to cattle and horses.  The common name, goat's rue, indicates its toxicity for goats, causing vomiting and even death under some conditions (Allen and Allen 1981).

Tingey (1971) listed several methods of controlling goatsrue, including the use of herbicides; cropping, cultivation, and crop rotation on tillable land; and mowing in patures.  But, Evans and Ashcroft (1982) stated that "mowing, clipping, cutting, and shallow cultivation are poor means of control, as the plant will flower and produce seed even when very small."

Explanatory Notes
The seeds of Galega officinalis are transversely oblong with raised lens and micropylar region and with an oblique furrow on each face near the lens, 3-4.5 mm long X 1-1.5 mm in diameter, reddish brown to dark brown, with the embryo clearly apparent.  Other characters useful in identification include the robust, much-branched habit; odd-pinnate, alternate leaves with 4-10 pairs of leaflets + a terminal leaflet, these elliptic to ovate-oblong and 15-50 mm long; many-flowered, pedunculate receme with persistent bracts; white to purplish, papilionaceous corolla, 10-15 mm long; more or less monadelphous stamens; and semi-erect, linear-cylindric, torulose legume, 20-50 mm long and obliquely striate.

Tingey (1971) reported that the growth habit of goatsrue is similar to that of alfalfa, but unlike alfalfa, the pods are narrow, straight, round in cross section, and about 1-inch long.  They also stated that the seeds resemble those of alfalfa, but are much larger.

Wild licorice (Glycyrrhiza lepidota) may be confused with goatsreu, but wild licorice has solid stems [vs. hollow ones], and stipule lobes only above the point of insertion [vs. 1/2 sagittate], and the pods are burlike with hooked bristles [vs. linear-cylindric and smooth] (USDA-APHIS mimeo, w/o date).

Chamberlain (1970) stated that variants [of goatsrue] with dark purple standards and pale wings and standards [?keel] have sometimes been treated as separate species, G. patula Stev. or G. bicolor Hausskn.  These names are now usually listed in synonymy under Galega officinalis.

Literature Cited
Allen, O.N. and E.K. Allen.  1981.  The Leguminosae: A source book of characteristics, uses, and nodulation.  University of Wisconsin Press, Madison. 812 pp.

Bailey, L.H. and E.Z. Bailey.  1976.  Hortus third: A concise dictionary of plants cultivated in the United States and Canada.  Macmillan Publ. Co., New York. 1290 pp.

Chamberlain, D.F.  1970.  Galega.  In P.H. Davis (ed.), Flora of Turkey 3:41-42.

Clapham, A.R., T.G. Tutin, and E.F. Warburg. 1962.  Flora of the British Isles. 2d ed.  University Press, Cambridge.

Evans, J.O. and M.L. Ashcroft.  1982.  Goatsrue.  Utah Agr.  Exp. Stat. Res. Report 79.  5 pp.

Tingey, D.C. 1971.  Goatsrue, a potential forage crop, turned out to be a weed. Utah Sci. 32(1):25-28.

Willis, J.C. 1980.  A dictionary of the flowering plants and ferns.  8th ed. University Press, Cambridge. 1245 pp + appendix (1xvi pp).


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Last updated on Wednesday, November 05, 2003 at 01:31 PM
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