Astragalus L.

From Linnaeus era (1753) till 1794 approximately 84 species (37 spp. by Linnaeus) were described, from 1795 to 1876 about 790 more species were added on previous number, from 1882 to 1915 around 236 species, from 1916 to 1955 about 328 species, and surprisingly from 1956 to 2018 unimaginable species number, about 1175 new taxa( subspecies / varieties) were added in the genus Astragalus. There are actually 2748 accepted species/subspecies / varieties names into 155 sections are recognized from different parts of the Old World countries. For the New World from eighteen century (Hooker, 1831, A. Gray, 1864; Jones, 1923; Rydberg, 1929; Barneby, 1964; and Gomez-Sosa, 1979-1986), about 636 species/varieties into ca. 94 sections for the N America and 107 species without sectional classification for S. America were validated.

Now Astragalus L. contains 746 taxa (294 varieties) in the New World and about 2748 taxa (144 subspecies) in the Old World, with the total number of 3494 taxa, among 57 Angiosperm genera, comprising over 500 species (Frodin, 2004).

The genus contains 38 monotypic sections in the Old World and 24 monotypic sections in the New World. There are also several local and regional endemites sections in different countries of the world. Majority of the sections contain 10 to 60 species and only a few sections consist of  70 to 120 species. Only the sect. Caprini known as the biggest section with about 300 species is widely distributed throughout the old world from south to north hemisphere, in temperate climate to cold area, lowland to high altitude and subnival to nival zone. As the exception Australia and New Zeeland, the genus is widely distributed throughout the world. Surprisingly, a few sections (Hypoglottidei, Uliginosi, Onobrychoidei and …) and about 10 species (A. alpinus, A. onobrychis, and …) which are usually growing in wetland or meadows are common within Old and New world. Few numbers of annual species were produced in N America and probably in S Africa.

Morphologically, the species of the genus are in the form of annuals, perennials, herbaceous and fruticose (shrub lets). In SW Asia, Middle Asia and in high altitudes of Europe the woody species create the small to big continuous or discontinuous permanent association with one or more Astragali species and in some parts, mixed with other sociable genera like: Acantholimon spp., Arthemisia spp. Onobrychis spp. and Acanthophyllum spp., which create the association (cushion formation). All other data excluded from different floras (Gontscharov 1965, Davis 1970, Podlech 1999; Podlech et al. 2001, 2010, 2012; Maassoumi 2003, 2016, 2018), Chauhdary, 2018, Podlech & Xu, 2010, Ali, 1980); Check lists (Lock 1991; Yakovlev et al. 1996; Maassoumi 1998, 2018; Kumar et al. 2003; Breckle et al., 2013; Khassanov, 2018) as well as the recent monumental taxonomic revision of the genus in the Old World (Podlech and Zarre, 2013).

More additional data were extracted from herbarium materials of the biggest national herbaria and 20 different provincial herbaria of Iran and also from the Floras and catalogues of some other herbaria of the world. With these data a database in Excel software created with more than 55000 records. These data analyzed with the quantitative inventory method and ArcGIS software.

Based on this huge database (Old World), number of observations were classified in six different major groups:

Group 1: 550 spp. only with one observation belonging to very rare species group.

Group 2: 585 spp. with 2-4 observations belonging to rare species group.

Group 3: 480 spp. with 5-10 observations belonging to abundant species group.

Group 4: 365 spp. with 11-20 observations belonging to frequent species group.

Group 5: 423 spp. with 21-99 observations belonging to widespread species group.

Also, the elevation distribution of samples, is given in below.

Categories/Elevation Frequent Percentage
< 500 m 775 3.95
500-1000 m 1601 8.16
1000-1500 m 3499 17.83
1500-2000 m 5383 27.43
2000-2500 m 4158 21.19
2500-3000 m 1898 9.65
3000-3500 m 1076 5.48
3500-4000 m 653 3.33
4000-4500 m 356 1.81
4500-5000 m 165 0.84
5000-5500 m 54 0.28
> 5000 7 0.04
Sum 19621 100

Based on Phylogentical findings (Kazempour et al, 2003, 2005; Wojciechowski, M.F., et al.,2004; Maassoumi et al., 2016), the major primitive groups of the genus Astragalus with herbaceous habits and large flowers with wide keels (Colutea types) are usually concentrated in SW, SE and Middle Asia, however, an explosive rapid radiation is prolonged to Indo-Himalaya and Northern Africa.

several sections showing the large distribution pattern, but few numbers of sections are local or regional endemics.

  • Endemic sections (Local):
  1. China: Nuculiella, chrysopterus, Melilolopsis, Ebracteolati
  2. Afghanistan: Hololeios, Stipitella, Thaumasiophaca
  3. Turkey: Chrystianophysa, Rhabdotus, Woronowiana, Sisyrophorus, Davisiana, Hymenocoleus, Argaeus, Eustales
  4. Iran: Plagiophaca, Leucocercis, Lamprocarpa, Elvendia, Micrephysa, Campylanthus, Eriostoma, Semnanense, Koelziana
  5. Uzbekistan: Alopecioides
  6. Tajikistan: Bungeastrum
  7. Mongolia: Borodiana?, Ceratoides (uncertain)
  8. Turkmenistan: Eremophysopsis
  9. Armenia: Halophyllum
  10. Baldaccia: Albania
  • Sub-endemic sections(regional):

these sections might be endemic to different countries, but in a big floristic area like Middle Asia or Asia and Africa countries.

  1. Macropodium (Uzbekistan, Tajikistan)
  2. Leptophysa(Uzbekistan, Tajikistan)
  3. Aberrans (Kazakhstan, Turkmenistan)
  4. Tripodolobus (Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, Kyrkizistan)

However, there are some sections distributed into the largest area within continents.

  1. Drepanodos (Algeria, Tunisia)
  2. Lotidium (China, Japan)
  3. Acanthophace (Iran, Turkey)
  4. Hystrix (Iran, Turkey)
  5. Pseudotapinodes (China, Nepal, Bhutan)
  6. Macrocystis (Middle Asia, Afghanistan)
  7. Hypsophilus (Middle Asia, China)
  8. Bulimoides (Central Asia, Kazakhstan)
  • Endemic species:

According to the 2747 existing species 1931 are endemics to the different regions and 817 species with larger distribution, penetrate into the bordering countries. Numerous species occupy the area beyond the main center of endemism, showing the cosmopolitans status in the Old World, but lot of them are common in two neighboring countries.

– Two points are noteworthy :

  • Firstly, the annuals species with fewer numbers, have a large distribution, occupying nearly all areas of the Old World.
  • Secondly, perennials endemic species distributed on very large areas in the Europe, SW Asia, S. Asia, E. Asia, Middle Asia, and Africa.

The results of this investigation provided from 55000 records of database from Old World and the distribution pattern using ArcGIS have been provided in Figure 2.

List of Excluded from Genus Astragalus


Phyllolobium Fischer in Sprengel, Novi Provent. 33. 1818.

Astragalus  sect. Phyllolobium (Fischer) Bunge

Astragalus  sect. Trichostylus (Baker) Taub.

Astragalus  sect. Bibracteolati Simps., Syn. Nov.

Phyllolobium balfourianum (N. D. Simpson) M. L. Zhang & Podlech, Feddes Repert. 117: 44. 2006.

Astragalus balfourianus N. D. Simpson

Astragalus minutebracteolatus N. D.Simpson

Astragalus prattii N. D. Simpson

Astragalus prattii var. multiflorus K.T. Fu

Astragalus prattii var. pastorioides K. T. Fu

Astragalus schneideri Ulbrich.

Phyllolobium camptodontum (Franchet) M. L. Zhang &Podlech, l.c.: 46. 2006.

Astragalus camptodontus Franchet,

Astragalus camptodontoides N. D. Simpson;

Astragalus camptodontus var. li-chiangensis (N. D. Simpson) K. T. Fu;

Astragalus lichiangensis N. D.Simpson;

Astragalus rockii C. Marquand & Airy Shaw.

Phyllolobium chapmanianum (Wenninger) M. L. Zhang &Podlech, l.c.: 47. 2006.

Astragalus chapmanianus Wenninger

Phyllolobium chinense Fischer in Sprengel, Novi Provent.33. 1818.

Astragalus complanatus Bunge, , 2n=16

Astragalus pratensis Ulbrich.

Phyllolobium dolichochaete (Diels) M. L. Zhang & Podlech, l.c.: 48. 2006.

Astragalus dolichochaete Diels

Astragalus albidoflavus K. T. Fu.

Phyllolobium donianum (Candolle) M. L. Zhang & Podlech, l.c.: 49. 2006.

Astragalus donianus Candolle, Prodr. 2: 283. 1825;

Astragalusmonanthus K. T. Fu;

Astragalus macrorhizus D.Don

Astragalus prattii N. D. Simpson var. uniflorus E.Peter;

Astragalus pycnorrhizus Wallich ex Bentham;

Astragalus yatungensis C.C. Ni & P. C. Li.

Phyllolobium enneaphyllum (P. C. Li) M. L. Zhang & Podlech, l.c.: 51. 2006.

Astragalus enneaphyllus P. C. Li

Phyllolobium eutrichus (Handel-Mazzetti) M. L. Zhang &Podlech, l.c.: 51. 2006.

Astragalus complanatus Bunge var. eutrichus Handel-Mazzetti

Astragalus complanatus subsp.eutrichus (Handel-Mazzetti) Wenninger.

Phyllolobium flavovirens (K. T. Fu) M. L. Zhang & Podlech, l.c.: 52. 2006.

Astragalus flavovirens K. T. Fu

Astragalus angustifoliolatus K. T. Fu.

Phyllolobium heydei (Baker) M. L. Zhang & Podlech, l.c.: 53. 2006.

Astragalusheydei Baker in J. D. Hooker

Astragalus hendersonii Baker, 2n=16

Astragalus heydei var. hendersonii(Baker) H. Ohba, S. Akiyama & S. K. Wu.

Phyllolobium lasaense (C. C. Ni & P. C. Li) M. L. Zhang& Podlech, l.c.: 54. 2006.

Astragalus lasaensis C. C. Ni & P. C. Li

Phyllolobium lineariauriferum (P. C. Li) M. L. Zhang &Podlech, l.c.: 55. 2006

Astragaluslineariaurifer P. C. Li

Phyllolobium milingense (C. C. Ni & P. C. Li) M. L.Zhang & Podlech, l.c.: 56. 2006.

Astragalus milingensis C. C. Ni & P. C. Li

Astragalus milingensis var. heydeiodes K. T. Fu.

Phyllolobium pastorium (H. T. Tsai & T. T. Yu) M. L.Zhang & Podlech, l.c.: 57. 2006.

Astragalus pastorius H. T. Tsai & T. T. Yu. , 2n=16

Astragalus pastorius var. linearibrac-teatus K. T. Fu

Astragalus tenchingensis K. T. Fu.

Phyllolobium prodigiosum (K. T. Fu) M. L. Zhang & Podlech, l.c.: 58. 2006.

Astragalus prodigiosus K. T. Fu

Astragalus milingensis C. C. Ni & P. C. Li var. pauci-jugus (K. T. Fu) K. T. Fu;

Astragalus milingensis var. prodigiosus (K. T.Fu) K. T. Fu;

Astragalus prodigiosus var. paucijugus K. T. Fu.

Phyllolobium sanbilingense (H. T. Tsai & T. T. Yu) M. L.Zhang & Podlech, l.c.: 58.2006.

Astragalus sanbilingensis H. T. Tsai & T. T. Yu

Phyllolobium siccaneum (P. C. Li) M. L. Zhang & Podlech, l.c.: 59. 2006.

Astragalus siccaneus P. C. Li

Phyllolobium sichuanense Podlech, Feddes Repert. 120:56. 2009.

Phyllolobium tingriense (C. C. Ni & P. C. Li) M. L. Zhang& Podlech, l.c: 59. 2006.

Astragalus tingriensis C. C. Ni & P. C. Li

Phyllolobium tribulifolium (Bentham ex Bunge) M. L.Zhang & Podlech, l.c.: 60. 2006.

Astragalus tribulifolius Bentham ex Bunge, n=8, 2n=16

Astragalus chingi-anus P. C. Li

Astragalus tanguticus Batalin. , 2n=16

Astragalus tanguticus f. albiflorus (K. T. Fu) K. T. Fu

Astragalus tanguticus var.albiflorus K. T. Fu;

Astragalus tribulifolius var. pauciflorus C. Mar-quand & Airy Shaw.

Phyllolobium turgidocarpum (K. T. Fu) M. L. Zhang &Podlech, l.c.: 62. 2006.

Astragalus turgidocarpus K. T. Fu

Podlechiella Massoumi& Kaz.Ozaloo

Podlechiella vogelii (Webb) Maassoumi & Kaz. Ozalo

Astragalus vogelii (Webb) Bornm., 2n=16

Phaca vogelii Webb

Podlechiella vogelii subsp. vogelii

(Africa: widespread).

Astragalus prolixus Bunge

Astragalus gautieri Batt. & Trabut

Podlechiella vogelii subsp. fatimensis (Maire) Maassoumi,

(SW Asia: widespread; Africa: Egypt, Algeria, Sudan, Eritrae).

Astragalus vogelii subsp. fatimensis Maire

Astragalus fatmensis Chiov.

Astragalus arabicus Bunge

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