Herb to Know: Goat's Rue


| April/May 2001



Genus: Galega officinalis
Pronunciation: (Guh-LEE-guh uh-fiss-ih-NAL-iss)
Family: Leguminosae

• Eurasian herbaceous perennial to 5 feet tall
• Hardy in Zones 3 to 9
• Once widely used as a medicinal
• Attractive and easy to grow but invasive and toxic to livestock

This pretty herb with an unattractive name has fallen into disfavor in recent years by growing where it’s not wanted and poisoning the animals that feed on it.

The genus Galega comprises about six species of perennials native to tropical eastern Africa and from southern Europe to western Asia. Goat’s rue (G. officinalis) ranges from central and southern Europe to Asia Minor in moist meadows and other damp habitats.



It is a bushy plant that grows to 3 to 5 feet tall and 2 to 3 feet wide from a deep taproot. Smooth, erect, branched hollow stems bear bright green leaves, each pinnately divided into four to eight pairs of leaflets, 3/4 to 2 inches long. The mucilaginous leaf juice tastes bitter and astringent; the bad smell emitted by bruised leaves probably gives the herb its most widely known common name. The English once called this herb Italian fitch, “fitch” being a variant of “vetch,” a twining pea-family cousin. It is still known to some people as French lilac because of the similarity in shape and color of its spikes of lavender or white pea flowers to the panicles of common lilac (Syringa vulgaris). Goat’s rue blooms over a long period in summer. The flowers are followed by narrow, 2-inch-long pods, each filled with one to nine smooth, dull brown, kidney-shaped seeds.

As is true with many other legumes, soil bacteria that form nodules on the roots of goat’s rue fix atmospheric nitrogen, which can then be utilized by the plants. If the plants are turned under the soil, the nitrogen is released as they decompose, increasing the soil’s fertility.



Subscribe Today - Pay Now & Save 64% Off the Cover Price

Get the latest on Natural Health and Sustainable Living with Mother Earth News!

Mother Earth News

Your friends at Mother Earth Living are committed to natural health and sustainable living. Unfortunately, the financial impact of COVID-19 has challenged us to find a more economical way to achieve this mission. We welcome you to our sister publication Mother Earth News. What you sought in the pages of Mother Earth Living can be found in Mother Earth News. For over 50 years, “The Original Guide to Living Wisely” has focused on organic gardening, herbal medicine, real food recipes, and sustainability. We look forward to going on this new journey with you and providing solutions for better health and self-sufficiency.

The impact of this crisis has no doubt affected every aspect of our daily lives. We will strive to be a useful and inspiring resource during this critical time and for years to come.

Best wishes,
Your friends at Mother Earth Living and Mother Earth News

Save Money & a Few Trees!

By paying with a credit card, you save an additional $5 and get 6 issues of Mother Earth News for only $12.95 (USA only).

You may also use the Bill Me option and pay $17.95 for 6 issues.

Canadian Subscribers - Click Here
International Subscribers - Click Here
Canadian subscriptions: 1 year (includes postage & GST).


Facebook Pinterest Instagram YouTube Twitter

Classifieds