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Useful Temperate Plants

Astragalus gummifer

Labill.

Fabaceae

+ Synonyms

Astracantha gummifera (Labill.) Podlech

Astragalus rayatensis Eig

Common Name: Tragacanth

Astragalus gummifer

General Information

Astragalus gummifer is a low-growing, thorny, deciduous shrub with spreading branches.
This plant is one of the many species of Astragalus that produce tragacanth gum - a substance with many uses in medicine, as a food additive and in industry. This species was often believed to be the main source of Tragacanth gum, but other species such as Astragalus gossypinus and Astragalus microcephalus are superior in quality and quantity[
1086
Title
Systematic revision of Astragalus sect. Adiaspastus, sect. Macrophyllium and sect. Pterophorus (Fabaceae)
Publication
Englera 18
Author
Shahin Zarre-Mobarakeh
Website
http://www.bgbm.fu-berlin.de
Publisher
Botanic Garden and Botanical Museum Berlin-Dahlem, Germany
Year
2000
ISBN
3-921800-42-0
Description
An extensive revision of three gum-producing sections of the genus Astragalus, though it does not include section Rhacophorus, which is the main commercial producer of Gum Tragacanth
].

Known Hazards

Many members of this genus contain toxic glycosides[
65
Title
A Colour Atlas of Poisonous Plants.
Publication
 
Author
Frohne. D. and Pfänder. J.
Publisher
Wolfe
Year
1984
ISBN
0723408394
Description
Brilliant. Goes into technical details but in a very readable way. The best work on the subject that I've come across so far.
].
A number of species can accumulate toxic levels of selenium when grown in soils that are relatively rich in that element[
65
Title
A Colour Atlas of Poisonous Plants.
Publication
 
Author
Frohne. D. and Pfänder. J.
Publisher
Wolfe
Year
1984
ISBN
0723408394
Description
Brilliant. Goes into technical details but in a very readable way. The best work on the subject that I've come across so far.
].
All species with edible seedpods can be distinguished by their fleshy round or oval seedpod that looks somewhat like a greengage.[
85
Title
Edible Native Plants of the Rocky Mountains.
Publication
 
Author
Harrington. H. D.
Publisher
University of New Mexico Press
Year
1967
ISBN
0-8623-0343-9
Description
A superb book. Very readable, it gives the results of the authors experiments with native edible plants.
]

Botanical References

114
Title
The Plant Wealth of Iraq.
Publication
 
Author
Chakravarty. H. L.
Publisher
 
Year
 
ISBN
 
Description
It is surprising how many of these plants can be grown in Britain. A very readable book on the useful plants of Iraq.

Range

W. Asia - Turkey, Syria, Lebanon, Iraq

Habitat

Dry sub-alpine slopes and valleys, occasionally below the tree line, 1200 - 2600 metres in Iraq[
114
Title
The Plant Wealth of Iraq.
Publication
 
Author
Chakravarty. H. L.
Publisher
 
Year
 
ISBN
 
Description
It is surprising how many of these plants can be grown in Britain. A very readable book on the useful plants of Iraq.
]. Upland forests and grassland[
238
Title
Encyclopaedia of Herbs and their Uses.
Publication
 
Author
Bown. D.
Publisher
Dorling Kindersley, London.
Year
1995
ISBN
0-7513-020-31
Description
A very well presented and informative book on herbs from around the globe. Plenty in it for both the casual reader and the serious student. Just one main quibble is the silly way of having two separate entries for each plant.
].

Properties

Edibility Rating *  *  *
Medicinal Rating *  *  *
Other Uses Rating *  *  *
HabitEvergreen Shrub
Height0.20 m
PollinatorsBees, Lepidoptera
Cultivation StatusWild

Cultivation Details

Astragalus species that produce tragacanth gum are generally low-growing, spiny shrubs found in windy, usually semi-arid regions, often in mountaisn but also near the coast. They will often experience cold winters with frost, rain and snow and hot, dry summers. Most species grow in subarid areas with an annual precipitation of not more than 500mm, with a pronounced dry period of around four months in summer and most of the precipitation in winter. It is possible to grow many of these species outside of these habitats, especially in more continental climates. In moister climates, although they are likely to tolerate the low temperatures, they are unlikely to succeed if both summer and winter are wet unless the soil is very well-drained. Placing the plant in a local rain-shadow, such as the side of a building, can help successful cultivation[
1086
Title
Systematic revision of Astragalus sect. Adiaspastus, sect. Macrophyllium and sect. Pterophorus (Fabaceae)
Publication
Englera 18
Author
Shahin Zarre-Mobarakeh
Website
http://www.bgbm.fu-berlin.de
Publisher
Botanic Garden and Botanical Museum Berlin-Dahlem, Germany
Year
2000
ISBN
3-921800-42-0
Description
An extensive revision of three gum-producing sections of the genus Astragalus, though it does not include section Rhacophorus, which is the main commercial producer of Gum Tragacanth
,
K
Title
Plants for a Future
Author
Ken Fern
Description
Notes from observations, tasting etc at Plants For A Future and on field trips.
].
Tragacanthic Astragalus species generally prefer a gravelly soil with a small amount of fine earth[
1086
Title
Systematic revision of Astragalus sect. Adiaspastus, sect. Macrophyllium and sect. Pterophorus (Fabaceae)
Publication
Englera 18
Author
Shahin Zarre-Mobarakeh
Website
http://www.bgbm.fu-berlin.de
Publisher
Botanic Garden and Botanical Museum Berlin-Dahlem, Germany
Year
2000
ISBN
3-921800-42-0
Description
An extensive revision of three gum-producing sections of the genus Astragalus, though it does not include section Rhacophorus, which is the main commercial producer of Gum Tragacanth
]. Requires a dry well-drained soil in a sunny position[
1
Title
RHS Dictionary of Plants plus Supplement. 1956
Publication
 
Author
F. Chittendon.
Publisher
Oxford University Press
Year
1951
ISBN
-
Description
Comprehensive listing of species and how to grow them. Somewhat outdated, it has been replaced in 1992 by a new dictionary (see [200]).
]. Succeeds in poor soils[
200
Title
The New RHS Dictionary of Gardening. 1992.
Publication
 
Author
Huxley. A.
Publisher
MacMillan Press
Year
1992
ISBN
0-333-47494-5
Description
Excellent and very comprehensive, though it contains a number of silly mistakes. Readable yet also very detailed.
].
Requires a dry well-drained soil in a sunny position[
1
Title
RHS Dictionary of Plants plus Supplement. 1956
Publication
 
Author
F. Chittendon.
Publisher
Oxford University Press
Year
1951
ISBN
-
Description
Comprehensive listing of species and how to grow them. Somewhat outdated, it has been replaced in 1992 by a new dictionary (see [200]).
,
238
Title
Encyclopaedia of Herbs and their Uses.
Publication
 
Author
Bown. D.
Publisher
Dorling Kindersley, London.
Year
1995
ISBN
0-7513-020-31
Description
A very well presented and informative book on herbs from around the globe. Plenty in it for both the casual reader and the serious student. Just one main quibble is the silly way of having two separate entries for each plant.
]. Succeeds in poor soils[
200
Title
The New RHS Dictionary of Gardening. 1992.
Publication
 
Author
Huxley. A.
Publisher
MacMillan Press
Year
1992
ISBN
0-333-47494-5
Description
Excellent and very comprehensive, though it contains a number of silly mistakes. Readable yet also very detailed.
]. Tolerates a pH in the range 3.2 to 7.8.
Plants are intolerant of root disturbance and are best planted in their final positions whilst still small[
200
Title
The New RHS Dictionary of Gardening. 1992.
Publication
 
Author
Huxley. A.
Publisher
MacMillan Press
Year
1992
ISBN
0-333-47494-5
Description
Excellent and very comprehensive, though it contains a number of silly mistakes. Readable yet also very detailed.
].
This plant is a sub-shrub and although it produces woody stems these tend to die back almost to the base each winter.
The production of a special type of gum is an important economic feature of most tragacanthic species of Astragalus - the gum is sometimes exuded when the plants are wounded, but a better quality gum is obtained by incising or tapping the rootstock about 5 cm below the surface of the soil. The colour of the gum varies, both within and between species, from white to yellowish brown. The best quality gum is ribbon-like and translucent. The colour of gum, its amount and its shape depends on the species, collecting techniques and conditions[
1086
Title
Systematic revision of Astragalus sect. Adiaspastus, sect. Macrophyllium and sect. Pterophorus (Fabaceae)
Publication
Englera 18
Author
Shahin Zarre-Mobarakeh
Website
http://www.bgbm.fu-berlin.de
Publisher
Botanic Garden and Botanical Museum Berlin-Dahlem, Germany
Year
2000
ISBN
3-921800-42-0
Description
An extensive revision of three gum-producing sections of the genus Astragalus, though it does not include section Rhacophorus, which is the main commercial producer of Gum Tragacanth
].
Plants are usually tapped after their second year of growth, and have a profitable gum life of around 7 years[
1309
Title
The Leguminosae; A Source Book of Characteristics, Uses and Nodulation
Publication
 
Author
Allen O.N.; Allen E.K.
Publisher
University of Wisconsin
Year
1981
ISBN
0-333-32221-5
Description
An amazing and comprehensive work, giving a brief guide to the many genera of the family Fabaceae and also the principle uses of the genus.
].
This species has a symbiotic relationship with certain soil bacteria, these bacteria form nodules on the roots and fix atmospheric nitrogen. Some of this nitrogen is utilized by the growing plant but some can also be used by other plants growing nearby[
1309
Title
The Leguminosae; A Source Book of Characteristics, Uses and Nodulation
Publication
 
Author
Allen O.N.; Allen E.K.
Publisher
University of Wisconsin
Year
1981
ISBN
0-333-32221-5
Description
An amazing and comprehensive work, giving a brief guide to the many genera of the family Fabaceae and also the principle uses of the genus.
]. Many members of this genus can be difficult to grow, this may be due partly to a lack of their specific bacterial associations in the soil[
200
Title
The New RHS Dictionary of Gardening. 1992.
Publication
 
Author
Huxley. A.
Publisher
MacMillan Press
Year
1992
ISBN
0-333-47494-5
Description
Excellent and very comprehensive, though it contains a number of silly mistakes. Readable yet also very detailed.
].

Edible Uses

A source of a high quality gum tragacanth - used as a thickener in confections, salad dressings, sauces etc[
2
Title
Sturtevant's Edible Plants of the World.
Publication
 
Author
Hedrick. U. P.
Publisher
Dover Publications
Year
1972
ISBN
0-486-20459-6
Description
Lots of entries, quite a lot of information in most entries and references.
,
4
Title
A Modern Herbal.
Publication
 
Author
Grieve.
Publisher
Penguin
Year
1984
ISBN
0-14-046-440-9
Description
Not so modern (1930's?) but lots of information, mainly temperate plants.
,
57
Title
Plants for Man.
Publication
 
Author
Schery. R. W.
Publisher
 
Year
 
ISBN
 
Description
Fairly readable but not very comprehensive. Deals with plants from around the world.
,
64
Title
Vegetable Gums and Resins.
Publication
 
Author
Howes. F. N.
Publisher
Faber
Year
 
ISBN
81-88818-17-8
Description
A very good book dealing with the subject in a readable way.
,
105
Title
Tanaka's Cyclopedia of Edible Plants of the World.
Publication
 
Author
Tanaka. T. & Nakao S.
Publisher
Keigaku Publishing; Tokyo
Year
1976
ISBN
-
Description
The most comprehensive list of edible plants I've come across. Only the briefest entry for each species, though, and some of the entries are more than a little dubious. Not for the casual reader.
,
114
Title
The Plant Wealth of Iraq.
Publication
 
Author
Chakravarty. H. L.
Publisher
 
Year
 
ISBN
 
Description
It is surprising how many of these plants can be grown in Britain. A very readable book on the useful plants of Iraq.
]. It is an approved additive to food and has the E number E413[
238
Title
Encyclopaedia of Herbs and their Uses.
Publication
 
Author
Bown. D.
Publisher
Dorling Kindersley, London.
Year
1995
ISBN
0-7513-020-31
Description
A very well presented and informative book on herbs from around the globe. Plenty in it for both the casual reader and the serious student. Just one main quibble is the silly way of having two separate entries for each plant.
].
Gum tragacanth, obtained mainly from the root, is used in the food industry primarily as a thickening agent, mainly in ice cream, candies, syrups, jellies, salad dressings and mayonnaise[
74
Title
Flora of the USSR.
Publication
 
Author
Komarov. V. L.
Website
http://www.biodiversitylibrary.org
Publisher
Israel Program for Scientific Translation
Year
1968
ISBN
-
Description
An immense (25 or more large volumes) and not yet completed translation of the Russian flora. Full of information on plant uses and habitats but heavy going for casual readers. It can be downloaded from the Internet.
,
1086
Title
Systematic revision of Astragalus sect. Adiaspastus, sect. Macrophyllium and sect. Pterophorus (Fabaceae)
Publication
Englera 18
Author
Shahin Zarre-Mobarakeh
Website
http://www.bgbm.fu-berlin.de
Publisher
Botanic Garden and Botanical Museum Berlin-Dahlem, Germany
Year
2000
ISBN
3-921800-42-0
Description
An extensive revision of three gum-producing sections of the genus Astragalus, though it does not include section Rhacophorus, which is the main commercial producer of Gum Tragacanth
].

Medicinal

Gum tragacanth is mucilaginous and emulsifier. It is sometimes used as a remedy for coughs[
1086
Title
Systematic revision of Astragalus sect. Adiaspastus, sect. Macrophyllium and sect. Pterophorus (Fabaceae)
Publication
Englera 18
Author
Shahin Zarre-Mobarakeh
Website
http://www.bgbm.fu-berlin.de
Publisher
Botanic Garden and Botanical Museum Berlin-Dahlem, Germany
Year
2000
ISBN
3-921800-42-0
Description
An extensive revision of three gum-producing sections of the genus Astragalus, though it does not include section Rhacophorus, which is the main commercial producer of Gum Tragacanth
].
The gum is more commonly used in the pharmaceutical industry in the making of pills, tablets, and certain medicaments. Its principle medicinal role is as a mucilage to suspend heavy water-insoluble powders such as bismuth or zinc preparations[
74
Title
Flora of the USSR.
Publication
 
Author
Komarov. V. L.
Website
http://www.biodiversitylibrary.org
Publisher
Israel Program for Scientific Translation
Year
1968
ISBN
-
Description
An immense (25 or more large volumes) and not yet completed translation of the Russian flora. Full of information on plant uses and habitats but heavy going for casual readers. It can be downloaded from the Internet.
,
1086
Title
Systematic revision of Astragalus sect. Adiaspastus, sect. Macrophyllium and sect. Pterophorus (Fabaceae)
Publication
Englera 18
Author
Shahin Zarre-Mobarakeh
Website
http://www.bgbm.fu-berlin.de
Publisher
Botanic Garden and Botanical Museum Berlin-Dahlem, Germany
Year
2000
ISBN
3-921800-42-0
Description
An extensive revision of three gum-producing sections of the genus Astragalus, though it does not include section Rhacophorus, which is the main commercial producer of Gum Tragacanth
].

Gum tragacanth contains from 20 - 30% of a water-soluble fraction called tragacanthin (composed of tragacanthic acid and arabinogalactan). It also contains from 60 - 70% of a water-insoluble fraction called bassorin[
1088
Title
Determination of the Tragacanth gum production potential of white Astragalus (Astragalus gossypinus) in western rang
Publication
 
Author
Habib Yazdanshenas & Mina Jafari
Website
https://www.researchgate.net/publication/277438364
Publisher
 
Year
2014
ISBN
 
Description
Studying the potential yields of Tragacanth gum from Astragalus gossypinus
].
Tragacanthic acid is composed of D-galacturonic acid, D-xylose, L-fructose, D-galactose, and other sugars[
1088
Title
Determination of the Tragacanth gum production potential of white Astragalus (Astragalus gossypinus) in western rang
Publication
 
Author
Habib Yazdanshenas & Mina Jafari
Website
https://www.researchgate.net/publication/277438364
Publisher
 
Year
2014
ISBN
 
Description
Studying the potential yields of Tragacanth gum from Astragalus gossypinus
].
Tragacanthin is composed of uronic acid and arabinose; it dissolves in water to form a viscous colloidal solution[
1088
Title
Determination of the Tragacanth gum production potential of white Astragalus (Astragalus gossypinus) in western rang
Publication
 
Author
Habib Yazdanshenas & Mina Jafari
Website
https://www.researchgate.net/publication/277438364
Publisher
 
Year
2014
ISBN
 
Description
Studying the potential yields of Tragacanth gum from Astragalus gossypinus
].
Bbassorin swells in water to form a thick gel[
1088
Title
Determination of the Tragacanth gum production potential of white Astragalus (Astragalus gossypinus) in western rang
Publication
 
Author
Habib Yazdanshenas & Mina Jafari
Website
https://www.researchgate.net/publication/277438364
Publisher
 
Year
2014
ISBN
 
Description
Studying the potential yields of Tragacanth gum from Astragalus gossypinus
].

Other Uses

Gum tragacanth, obtained mainly from the root and stem, has a wide range of applications. The greatest demand comes from the textile industry in which the gum is used as a thickening in the preparation of boiled dyes for calico printing, in the application of textile dyes, for sizing yarns and threads, and in the dressing of silk fabrics and lace. It is also used in the printing trade; in the production of matches; the preparation of plastic materials; glue-making; to supply the gloss in water colours and ink; in perfumery; pencil manufacture, and in the paper industry, as a binding agent[
64
Title
Vegetable Gums and Resins.
Publication
 
Author
Howes. F. N.
Publisher
Faber
Year
 
ISBN
81-88818-17-8
Description
A very good book dealing with the subject in a readable way.
,
74
Title
Flora of the USSR.
Publication
 
Author
Komarov. V. L.
Website
http://www.biodiversitylibrary.org
Publisher
Israel Program for Scientific Translation
Year
1968
ISBN
-
Description
An immense (25 or more large volumes) and not yet completed translation of the Russian flora. Full of information on plant uses and habitats but heavy going for casual readers. It can be downloaded from the Internet.
,
1086
Title
Systematic revision of Astragalus sect. Adiaspastus, sect. Macrophyllium and sect. Pterophorus (Fabaceae)
Publication
Englera 18
Author
Shahin Zarre-Mobarakeh
Website
http://www.bgbm.fu-berlin.de
Publisher
Botanic Garden and Botanical Museum Berlin-Dahlem, Germany
Year
2000
ISBN
3-921800-42-0
Description
An extensive revision of three gum-producing sections of the genus Astragalus, though it does not include section Rhacophorus, which is the main commercial producer of Gum Tragacanth
].
Cosmetically, it is used in toilet creams, jellies, lotions, dental creams, etc. It is also used in the production of superior sorts of soap[
74
Title
Flora of the USSR.
Publication
 
Author
Komarov. V. L.
Website
http://www.biodiversitylibrary.org
Publisher
Israel Program for Scientific Translation
Year
1968
ISBN
-
Description
An immense (25 or more large volumes) and not yet completed translation of the Russian flora. Full of information on plant uses and habitats but heavy going for casual readers. It can be downloaded from the Internet.
,
1086
Title
Systematic revision of Astragalus sect. Adiaspastus, sect. Macrophyllium and sect. Pterophorus (Fabaceae)
Publication
Englera 18
Author
Shahin Zarre-Mobarakeh
Website
http://www.bgbm.fu-berlin.de
Publisher
Botanic Garden and Botanical Museum Berlin-Dahlem, Germany
Year
2000
ISBN
3-921800-42-0
Description
An extensive revision of three gum-producing sections of the genus Astragalus, though it does not include section Rhacophorus, which is the main commercial producer of Gum Tragacanth
].
It can be used as an agar substitute in the preparation of nutrient media[
74
Title
Flora of the USSR.
Publication
 
Author
Komarov. V. L.
Website
http://www.biodiversitylibrary.org
Publisher
Israel Program for Scientific Translation
Year
1968
ISBN
-
Description
An immense (25 or more large volumes) and not yet completed translation of the Russian flora. Full of information on plant uses and habitats but heavy going for casual readers. It can be downloaded from the Internet.
].

Tragacanths are sometimes used as fuel in areas where wood is in short supply[
74
Title
Flora of the USSR.
Publication
 
Author
Komarov. V. L.
Website
http://www.biodiversitylibrary.org
Publisher
Israel Program for Scientific Translation
Year
1968
ISBN
-
Description
An immense (25 or more large volumes) and not yet completed translation of the Russian flora. Full of information on plant uses and habitats but heavy going for casual readers. It can be downloaded from the Internet.
].

Both the stems and the gum can be burnt as a fragrant incense[
245
Title
Scented Flora of the World.
Publication
 
Author
Genders. R.
Publisher
Robert Hale. London.
Year
1994
ISBN
0-7090-5440-8
Description
An excellent, comprehensive book on scented plants giving a few other plant uses and brief cultivation details. There are no illustrations.
].

Propagation

Seed - best sown as soon as it is ripe in a cold frame[
200
Title
The New RHS Dictionary of Gardening. 1992.
Publication
 
Author
Huxley. A.
Publisher
MacMillan Press
Year
1992
ISBN
0-333-47494-5
Description
Excellent and very comprehensive, though it contains a number of silly mistakes. Readable yet also very detailed.
]. A period of cold stratification may help stored seed to germinate[
200
Title
The New RHS Dictionary of Gardening. 1992.
Publication
 
Author
Huxley. A.
Publisher
MacMillan Press
Year
1992
ISBN
0-333-47494-5
Description
Excellent and very comprehensive, though it contains a number of silly mistakes. Readable yet also very detailed.
]. Stored seed, and perhaps also fresh seed, should be pre-soaked for 24 hours in hot water before sowing - but make sure that you do not cook the seed[
134
Title
Growing from Seed. Volume 2.
Publication
 
Author
Rice. G. (Editor)
Publisher
Thompson and Morgan.
Year
1988
ISBN
-
Description
Very readable magazine with lots of information on propagation. An interesting article on Ensete ventricosum.
,
200
Title
The New RHS Dictionary of Gardening. 1992.
Publication
 
Author
Huxley. A.
Publisher
MacMillan Press
Year
1992
ISBN
0-333-47494-5
Description
Excellent and very comprehensive, though it contains a number of silly mistakes. Readable yet also very detailed.
]. Any seed that does not swell should be carefully pricked with a needle, taking care not to damage the embryo, and re-soaked for a further 24 hours[
134
Title
Growing from Seed. Volume 2.
Publication
 
Author
Rice. G. (Editor)
Publisher
Thompson and Morgan.
Year
1988
ISBN
-
Description
Very readable magazine with lots of information on propagation. An interesting article on Ensete ventricosum.
,
200
Title
The New RHS Dictionary of Gardening. 1992.
Publication
 
Author
Huxley. A.
Publisher
MacMillan Press
Year
1992
ISBN
0-333-47494-5
Description
Excellent and very comprehensive, though it contains a number of silly mistakes. Readable yet also very detailed.
]. Germination can be slow and erratic but is usually within 4 - 9 weeks or more at 13°c if the seed is treated or sown fresh[
134
Title
Growing from Seed. Volume 2.
Publication
 
Author
Rice. G. (Editor)
Publisher
Thompson and Morgan.
Year
1988
ISBN
-
Description
Very readable magazine with lots of information on propagation. An interesting article on Ensete ventricosum.
]. As soon as it is large enough to handle, prick the seedlings out into individual pots and grow them on in the greenhouse for their first winter, planting them out into their permanent positions in late spring or early summer, after the last expected frosts.
Cite as: Temperate Plants Database, Ken Fern. temperate.theferns.info. 2021-04-11. <temperate.theferns.info/plant/Astragalus+gummifer>

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