Coastal areas of central California
Between 8 and 40 inches
Coastal bluffs, sand dunes, rocky outcrops, less than 800 feet
Up to 6 inches long, pinnately divided into between 21 and 43 ovate to oblong leaflets
January to December
Astragalus nuttallii can be recognized by its white flowers, the vertical inflorescence, the relatively large number of leaflets (21 to 43) of its compound leaves and the location - plants are restricted to coastal areas, of central to north California. Stem and leaves usually have a very fine hair covering, but can be essentially hairless. Stems grow at various angles, from vertically upright to along the ground, often forming tangled clumps. Leaves project outwards from the stem and are usually somewhat arched. Leaflets may be touching or slightly overlapping, though they can instead be partly folded up along the axis.
Plants bloom all year. The inflorescence typically contains between 20 and 125 flowers, white to pale cream in color, sometimes with very pale purple tints. Flowers point downwards, and the banner petal is curved back by about 40 degrees. The fruit is a broad, inflated pod, between 1 and 2 inches long.
Var nuttallii has leaflets with longer, greyish hairs on the top surface, while the more widespread var virgatus has no such hairs.