- Name also: French Lilac, Italian Fitch, Professor-weed, Galega, Goat’s-rue
- Family: Pea Family – Fabaceae (Leguminosae)
- Growing form: Perennial herb.
- Height: 80–120 cm (30–50 in.). Stem quite glabrous.
- Flower: Corolla zygomorphic, white–light purple and blue veined, 10–15 mm (0.4–0.6 in.) long. Petals 5; the upstanding the ‘standard’, the lateral two the ‘wings’, the lower two united to form the ‘keel’, overall shape of corolla being butterfly-like. Calyx 5-lobed. Stamens 10, filaments with fused bases. A single carpel. Inflorescence in axils, long-stalked, many-flowered raceme.
- Leaves: Alternate, long-stalked, stipulate. Blade pinnate, in 3–9 pairs, with terminal leaflet. Leaflets ovate–lanceolate, often sharp-pointed, with entire margins. Stipules narrow, with hastate base.
- Fruit: Cylindrical, glabrous, many seeds, quite erect pod (legume).
- Habitat: Gardens, banks, wasteland. Ornamental.
- Flowering time: June–July.
Goat’s rue is originally from the Middle East, but nowadays it grows all over Europe and Asia. This useful and diverse herb has been eagerly spread by humans, who have cultivated it as a fodder, green manure, honey plant, medicinal and ornamental. It was believed to increase the milk yield of domesticated animals, which is the origin of its scientific name: gale, ‘milk’ and ega ‘to bring, cause’ – so it is the milk-bringer. Since the Middle Ages goat’s rue has been used to treat diabetes as the guanidine it contains lowers blood sugar levels. Species have also been used in fishing: crushed stems are simply thrown into the water and the fish rendered unconscious by the poison are collected from the surface. In North America there has been a fear that goat’s rue will cross-breed and become a problematic alien, in much the same way that we in Finland have the same fears about garden lupine (Lupinus polyphyllos). Goat’s rue can mainly be found in Finland as a garden ornamental and only occasionally does it spread to the wild.
Oriental Goat’s Rue
In Finland oriental goat’s rue is slightly more common than goat’s rue. It thrives in Finland’s climate and could become established in the future as a new fodder crop. The species can be told apart from each other by studying their stipules: on goat’s rue they have a hastate base while on oriental goat’s rue they are entire. Flowers are usualyy darker and pods are hanging (with goat’s rue erect). Oriental gaot’s-rue is classified as a potentially or locally harmful alien species.