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goatsrue (Galega officinalis)

USDA Symbol:  GAOF

ODA rating: A
and T
Goatsrue risk assessment
Noxious weed listing process

Oregon goatsrue distribution
Other common names
American garden rue, catgut, devil's shoestring, rabbit-pea, horey turkey peas, Virginia pea, Virginia tephrosia, professor weed
Click on image to view larger photo.
Images courtesy of Bob Barret Oregon Dept. of Agriculture

If images are downloaded and used from the ODA web site please be sure to credit the photographer.
Goatsrue is a deep-rooted perennial, regrowing each year from a crown and taproot reaching 2 to 6 feet tall by late summer. Plants may have up to 20 hollow stems. The first seedling leaves are large, oval and dark green. The mature leaves are alternate, odd-pinnate with 6 to 10 pairs of leaflets. The plant's stems and leaves contain a poisonous alkaloid, galegin, which renders the plant unpalatable to most livestock, and lethal in large quantities. The white and bluish to purplish pea-like blossoms are borne in terminal or axially racemes. Each blossom produces a straight, narrow, smooth pod, with 1 to 9 seeds per pod. A single plant may produce upwards of 15,000 pods. Goatsrue seeds are bean-shaped, dull yellow in color, and about 2 1/2 times the size of alfalfa seeds. Seeds drop on the ground when mature and may be spread by water, equipment, or animals. Seeds typically remain dormant until scarified and may remain viable for 10 years.

Goatsrue is toxic to all ruminate animals, especially sheep. Livestock and wildlife losses would be expected to increase especially during dry years if animals graze in infested areas. Goatsrue replaces desirable vegetation in pastures and particularly along stream banks and irrigation canals. Some of the most productive lowland pastures, irrigated fields and moist meadows would be susceptible to invasion. Though it is cultivated for forage in Eurasia, it is not clear why toxicity problems are more prevalent here. Goats may be resistant to the toxins and are grazed in larger numbers there. Additional costs associated with goat’s rue involve control or eradication programs. Large investments in herbicide control have not yielded satisfactory results in several states. The plants’ large woody rootstock appears difficult to control. Alfalfa seed crops may become contaminated with goat’s rue seed. The seed size is larger than alfalfa seed but shape and coat are similar. A small amount of contaminant could serve to inoculate newly planted alfalfa fields causing economic harm to producers.

Goatsrue is a federally listed noxious weed. A member of the legume family, it was introduced into Utah in 1891 as a potential forage crop. Escaping cultivation, it now occupies in excess of 60 square miles in Cache, County, Utah. Within this area, goatsrue infests cropland, fence lines, pastures, roadsides, waterways, and wet, marshy areas (Evans and Ashcroft 1982).

Distribution in Oregon
Goatsrue was found in a crop in Grant's Pass in 2007 and currently is under eradication measures.

For a collection of spatial information on the distribution of this plant in Oregon go to Oregon WeedMapper.

Biological controls
Biological control agents are not used on "A" listed weeds in Oregon.

Printable goatsrue trifold brochure (pdf)