E-Flora BC: Electronic Atlas of the Flora of British Columbia

Hedysarum alpinum L.
alpine hedysarum (alpine sweetvetch; alpine sweet-vetch)
Fabaceae (Pea family)

Introduction to Vascular Plants

© Bev Ramey  Email the photographer   (Photo ID #87773)

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Distribution of Hedysarum alpinum
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Species Information

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Perennial herb from a brown, scaly stem-base and large, fleshy or woody, sometimes rhizome-like taproot; stems usually several, erect or decumbent-ascending, 10-90 cm tall, often branched above, short-stiff-hairy.
Alternate, odd-pinnate, fresh green, hairless but minutely gland-dotted on upper surface, 4-16 cm long on short stalks; leaflets 9 to 23, lanceolate to lance-elliptic, abruptly sharp-pointed at the tip, 10-50 mm long, 3-15 mm wide, with prominent lateral veins; stipules conspicuous, brown, joined below, 5-25 mm long.
Inflorescence an axillary raceme of several to many pea-like, nodding flowers, the racemes often one-sided, often long and narrow but sometimes compact, 2-18 cm long, on straight stalks; corollas pink to pinkish-purple, 10-20 mm long, the wing-lobes linear, nearly equal to the claw; calyces bell-shaped, hairy, the tube 1.5-2.5 mm long, the teeth triangular, the upper pair of teeth shorter and wider than the lower three.
Pods, constricted between the seeds into (1) 2 to 5 segments, the segments oval, 5-9 mm long, 3-7 mm wide, mostly glabrous, net-veined, narrowly wing-margined.
Some taxonomists have recognized populations with smaller stature and larger flowers as H. hedysaroides (L.) Schinz & Thell., an Eurasian species. These plants, however, appear to be merely a phase of the variable H. alpinum complex. They may be recognized as H. alpinum var. grandiflorum Rollins, if a name is required.

Source: The Illustrated Flora of British Columbia

USDA Species Characteristics

Flower Colour:
Blooming Period:
Early Summer
Fruit/Seed characteristics:
Colour: Brown
Present over the
Source:  The USDA

Habitat / Range

Moist to mesic gravel bars, streambanks, lakeshores, meadows, alpine heath and tundra, rocky slopes, and open forests in the montane to alpine zones; common in N BC, rare southward in BC east of the Coast-Cascade Mountains; amphiberingian, N to AK, YT and NT, E to NF and S to ME, UT, SD and WY; NE Asia.

Source: The Illustrated Flora of British Columbia


Ecological Framework for Hedysarum alpinum

The table below shows the species-specific information calculated from
original data (BEC database) provided by the BC Ministry of Forests and Range.
(Updated August, 2013)

Site Information
Value / Class




Elevation (metres) 97 1190 2635
Slope Gradient (%) 0 16 78
Aspect (degrees)
[0 - N; 90 - E; 180 - S; 270 - W]
0 241 360
Soil Moisture Regime (SMR)
[0 - very xeric; 4 - mesic;
8 - hydric]
1 3 8
Modal Nutrient Regime
Number of field plots
 species was recorded in:
Modal BEC Zone Class
All BEC Zones (# of stations/zone) species was recorded in: AT(1), BAFA(10), BWBS(69), ESSF(29), IDF(1), IMA(2), SBS(4), SWB(43)


The climate type for this species, as reported in the: "British Columbia plant species codes and selected attributes. Version 6 Database" (Meidinger et al. 2008), is not evaluated, unknown or variable.

Synonyms and Alternate Names

Hedysarum alpinum subsp. americanum (Michx.) Fedtsch.
Hedysarum alpinum subsp. grandiflorum
Hedysarum alpinum var. alpinum L.
Hedysarum alpinum var. americanum Michx.
Hedysarum alpinum var. grandiflorum Rollins
Hedysarum alpinum var. philoscia (A. Nels.) Rollins
Hedysarum americanum (Michx.) Britton
Hedysarum caucasicum M. Bieb.
Hedysarum hedysaroides auct. non (L.) Schinz & Thell.
Hedysarum philoscia A. Nels.
Hedysarum sibiricum Poir.
Hedysarum truncatum Eastw.

Taxonomic and Nomenclatural Links

Additional Photo Sources

General References