Buffalo Bean, Golden Bean


This member of the pea family can turn hillsides bright yellow in early spring. Racemes of typical pea-shaped flowers develop on the top portion of the 15–40 cm stems, followed by conspicuous, curled seed pods, which hold up to a dozen seeds. These seeds contain a poisonous alkaloid that causes severe illness.

The Blackfoot called this plant Wudzi-eh-kay, or buffalo flower. The appearance of its blossoms was a sign that the buffalo bulls were in prime condition. This knowledge was also held by the Flathead people, who crossed over the mountains into Blackfoot territory to hunt for bulls. (Johnston 41–42)


Growth habit and range: This plant is an erect, herbaceous perennial which commonly occurs on grassy, exposed sites throughout the prairies. Buffalo bean grows to a height of 15–40 cm.

Description: The stems are generally not branched. The leaves are alternately placed on the stem, and there are oppositely placed, clasping, leaf-like stipules also. The leaves are compound, with 3 leaflets per leaf, and are blue-green in colour, with a waxy, whitish bloom or hairs on the surface. Each leaf measures up to 4 cm in length. The 1–2 cm long flowers appear in May and June and are a bright yellow colour. The flower shape is pea-like, and the blossoms are held in short terminal clusters. The fruit is a flattened, curved pod which measures 4–8 cm in length. The seeds are kidney-shaped and brown, smooth and 3–4 mm in length.


  • Johnston, Alex. 1987. Plants and the Blackfoot. Occasional Paper No. 15., Lethbridge Historical Society, AB.