Open the Advanced Search

Wild Liquorice

Astragalus glycyphyllos

Please keep in mind that it is illegal to uproot a plant without the landowner's consent and care should be taken at all times not to damage wild plants. Wild plants should never be picked for pleasure and some plants are protected by law.
For more information please download the BSBI Code of Conduct PDF document.


Plant Profile

Flowering Months:
Fabaceae (Pea)
Also in this family:
Alpine Milk-vetch, Alsike Clover, Birdsfoot, Birdsfoot Clover, Bird's-foot Trefoil, Bithynian Vetch, Bitter Vetch, Black Broom, Black Medick, Bladder Senna, Broad Bean, Broad-leaved Everlasting Pea, Bur Medick, Burrowing Clover, Bush Vetch, Clustered Clover, Common Broom, Common Gorse, Common Laburnum, Common Restharrow, Common Vetch, Crimson Clover, Crown Vetch, Dragon's Teeth, Dwarf Gorse, Dyer's Greenweed, False Acacia, Fine-leaved Vetch, Fodder Vetch, Garden Lupin, Garden Pea, Goat's Rue, Grass Vetchling, Greater Bird's-foot Trefoil, Hairy Bird's-foot Trefoil, Hairy Greenweed, Hairy Tare, Hairy Vetchling, Hairy-fruited Broom, Haresfoot Clover, Hop Trefoil, Horseshoe Vetch, Hungarian Vetch, Kidney Vetch, Knotted Clover, Large Trefoil, Lesser Trefoil, Lucerne, Marsh Pea, Meadow Vetchling, Narrow-leaved Bird's-foot Trefoil, Narrow-leaved Everlasting Pea, Narrow-leaved Vetch, Nootka Lupin, Norfolk Everlasting Pea, Orange Birdsfoot, Petty Whin, Purple Milk-vetch, Purple Oxytropis, Red Clover, Reversed Clover, Ribbed Melilot, Rough Clover, Russell Lupin, Sainfoin, Scorpion Senna, Scottish Laburnum, Sea Clover, Sea Pea, Sickle Medick, Slender Bird's-foot Trefoil, Slender Tare, Slender Trefoil, Small Melilot, Small Restharrow, Smooth Tare, Spanish Broom, Spanish Gorse, Spiny Restharrow, Spotted Medick, Spring Vetch, Strawberry Clover, Suffocated Clover, Sulphur Clover, Tall Melilot, Toothed Medick, Tree Lupin, Tuberous Pea, Tufted Vetch, Twin-headed Clover, Two-flowered Everlasting Pea, Upright Clover, Upright Vetch, Western Clover, Western Gorse, White Broom, White Clover, White Lupin, White Melilot, Wood Vetch, Yellow Oxytropis, Yellow Vetch, Yellow Vetchling, Zigzag Clover
Life Cycle:
Maximum Size:
1 metre tall
Cliffs, gardens, grassland, meadows, roadsides, sand dunes, scrub, seaside, wasteland, woodland.

Yellow, 5 petals
A dense, short-spiked spike of creamy yellowish-green flowers. Long, narrow and pointed sepals. Flowers have many pale green stripes, unnoticeable from a distance. 10 stamens. Pollinated by bees, butterflies and moths.
The Wild Liquorice plant does not produce traditional fruits in the way we commonly think of them. Instead, it is the roots of the plant that are of interest. The roots of Wild Liquorice are known for their sweet taste, attributed to the presence of glycyrrhizin, a compound that imparts a natural sweetness. While not a traditional fruit-bearing plant, Wild Liquorice is valued for its edible and sweet-flavored roots, historically used by indigenous communities for culinary and medicinal purposes. The seeds ripen from August to October.
A straggling, limp-looking perennial with alternate leaves divided into 4 to 6 pairs of oblong, oval, minutely toothed leaflets. The leaflets (2 to 4cm long) have a few forward-curved veins. The stems are zigzagged. Hairless. Prefers chalky soils.
Wild Liquorice is not typically known for a distinct fragrance associated with its foliage or flowers. Unlike some plants that are valued for their aromatic qualities, Wild Liquorice is appreciated more for its visual appeal, particularly the delicate lavender to white flowers it produces in elongated spikes. The plant's primary sensory allure lies in its visual charm rather than a noticeable fragrance.
Other Names:
Liquorice Milkvetch, Milk Vetch, Sweet Pea Locoweed, Wild Licorice.
Frequency (UK):

Similar Species

Other Information


Astragalus glycyphyllos, also known as the "sweet pea locoweed" or "wild licorice," is a species of perennial herb that is native to Europe and Asia. It is known for its small, pea-like flowers that can be white, pink, or purple in color. The plant has long, narrow leaves and can grow up to 2-3 feet in height. The root of Astragalus glycyphyllos is used in traditional medicine as a tonic and diuretic and it is known to have anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties. The plant prefers well-drained soils and full sun to partial shade, and it is often used as an ornamental plant in gardens and is also used in cut flower arrangements.


Wild Liquorice, also known as Astragalus glycyphyllos, is a fascinating herb that has been used for centuries for its various health benefits. This perennial plant belongs to the family Fabaceae and is native to Europe and Asia. It is a close relative of the more well-known herb, Astragalus membranaceus, which is commonly used in traditional Chinese medicine.

Wild Liquorice has a long history of use in traditional medicine, with records dating back to ancient Greece and Rome. It was used as a remedy for various ailments, including respiratory problems, digestive issues, and skin conditions. In traditional medicine, the root of the plant is the most commonly used part, and it is believed to have a sweet taste, similar to liquorice.

One of the key health benefits of Wild Liquorice is its potential to support the immune system. The plant contains several compounds that have been shown to have immune-boosting properties. For example, research has shown that Wild Liquorice extract can increase the production of white blood cells, which play a crucial role in fighting infections and diseases.

Wild Liquorice may also have anti-inflammatory properties, which could be beneficial for those with inflammatory conditions such as arthritis. The plant contains several flavonoids and triterpenoids, which have been shown to have anti-inflammatory effects in animal studies. More research is needed to confirm these findings in humans, but the preliminary results are promising.

In addition to its potential immune-boosting and anti-inflammatory effects, Wild Liquorice has also been studied for its potential to support cardiovascular health. Some studies have suggested that the plant may help to lower blood pressure and improve cholesterol levels. For example, a 2015 study found that Wild Liquorice extract reduced blood pressure in rats with high blood pressure.

Wild Liquorice is a fascinating herb with a long history of use in traditional medicine. While more research is needed to fully understand its potential health benefits, preliminary studies suggest that it may have immune-boosting, anti-inflammatory, and cardiovascular health-supporting properties. If you are interested in trying Wild Liquorice, it is important to talk to your healthcare provider first, especially if you are taking medications or have any underlying health conditions.

Wild Liquorice is a hardy plant that can tolerate a wide range of growing conditions, including poor soil and drought. It prefers well-drained soil and full sun to partial shade. The plant produces yellow flowers in the summer, which are followed by seed pods that contain the plant's seeds.

Wild Liquorice is often used in herbal remedies and supplements, and it can be found in various forms, including capsules, powders, and teas. The root of the plant is the most commonly used part, and it is typically harvested in the fall, after the plant has had a chance to store up its nutrients.

While Wild Liquorice is generally considered safe when used in recommended doses, it can interact with certain medications and may not be appropriate for everyone. It is important to talk to your healthcare provider before using any herbal remedies or supplements, especially if you are pregnant, breastfeeding, or have any underlying health conditions.

In addition to its potential health benefits, Wild Liquorice has also been used for culinary purposes. The root of the plant has a sweet taste that is similar to liquorice, and it can be used to flavor food and beverages. The root can be chopped and added to stews and soups, or it can be boiled to make a tea. The tea can be sweetened with honey to enhance its flavor.

Wild Liquorice has also been used in traditional folk medicine for its wound-healing properties. The root of the plant has been used topically to promote healing and reduce inflammation in skin conditions such as eczema and psoriasis. However, more research is needed to confirm the effectiveness of Wild Liquorice in wound healing.

Wild Liquorice is a versatile herb with a wide range of potential health benefits. While more research is needed to fully understand its properties, it has been used for centuries in traditional medicine and culinary arts. If you are interested in using Wild Liquorice for its potential health benefits, it is important to consult with a healthcare professional and use it in recommended doses.

Wild Liquorice also contains a variety of nutrients and bioactive compounds that may contribute to its potential health benefits. It is rich in flavonoids, which are potent antioxidants that help to protect the body against oxidative stress and inflammation. It also contains triterpenoids, which have been shown to have anti-inflammatory and immune-boosting properties.

In addition to its potential benefits for the immune system and cardiovascular health, Wild Liquorice has also been studied for its potential anti-cancer effects. Some studies have suggested that the plant's bioactive compounds may help to inhibit the growth and spread of cancer cells. However, more research is needed to confirm these findings and determine the optimal doses for therapeutic use.

Wild Liquorice is also commonly used in traditional medicine to support respiratory health. The plant's roots have been used to treat coughs, bronchitis, and other respiratory conditions. It is believed that the plant's anti-inflammatory and immune-boosting properties may help to reduce inflammation in the respiratory system and promote healing.

In summary, Wild Liquorice is a versatile herb with a long history of use in traditional medicine. While more research is needed to fully understand its potential health benefits, preliminary studies suggest that it may have immune-boosting, anti-inflammatory, cardiovascular health-supporting, anti-cancer, and respiratory health-supporting properties. If you are interested in trying Wild Liquorice, it is important to talk to your healthcare provider first to determine if it is safe and appropriate for you.

30 Facts About Wild Liquorice

  1. Scientific Name: The Wild Liquorice plant is scientifically known as Astragalus glycyphyllos.

  2. Distribution: It is native to North America and is commonly found in the central and western regions of the continent.

  3. Habitat: Wild Liquorice thrives in a variety of habitats, including prairies, meadows, and open woodlands.

  4. Appearance: This perennial herb can reach a height of about three feet and has compound leaves with leaflets arranged in pairs.

  5. Root System: The plant is well-known for its extensive and deep taproot, which can reach several feet into the ground.

  6. Flower Characteristics: Wild Liquorice produces small, pale lavender to white flowers that form in elongated spikes.

  7. Flowering Season: The blooming period typically occurs from late spring to early summer.

  8. Edible Roots: The taproots of Wild Liquorice are edible and have a sweet taste, often used by Native American tribes and early settlers.

  9. Medicinal Uses: Traditionally, the plant has been used for its medicinal properties, including as a remedy for coughs and respiratory issues.

  10. Flavor Agent: The roots contain glycyrrhizin, a compound responsible for the sweet flavor, which is often used as a natural sweetener.

  11. Wildlife Interaction: Various insects are attracted to the nectar of Wild Liquorice flowers, contributing to its role in supporting local ecosystems.

  12. Drought Tolerance: The plant is adapted to tolerate drought conditions, making it resilient in arid environments.

  13. Cultural Significance: Some Native American tribes have cultural uses for Wild Liquorice, using it in ceremonies and rituals.

  14. Traditional Medicine: Native American herbal medicine uses the plant for treating conditions such as stomachaches and sore throats.

  15. Legume Family: Wild Liquorice belongs to the legume family (Fabaceae), which includes many other important plants.

  16. Nitrogen Fixation: Like other legumes, it has the ability to fix nitrogen in the soil, enhancing fertility.

  17. Perennial Growth: As a perennial plant, Wild Liquorice comes back year after year from the same root system.

  18. Erosion Control: Its deep roots contribute to soil stabilization, preventing erosion in certain areas.

  19. Adaptability: The plant is adaptable to different soil types, including sandy and loamy soils.

  20. Butterfly Attraction: Wild Liquorice flowers attract butterflies, adding to its appeal in gardens focused on pollinator-friendly plants.

  21. Root Harvesting: Harvesting the roots requires caution as overharvesting can have ecological consequences.

  22. Propagation: Wild Liquorice can be propagated by seed, and it is also possible to grow new plants from root divisions.

  23. Conservation: Due to habitat loss, some populations of Wild Liquorice are at risk, emphasizing the importance of conservation efforts.

  24. Ethnobotanical Knowledge: Indigenous communities have a rich knowledge of the plant's uses and have passed down this information through generations.

  25. Culinary Uses: Apart from medicinal uses, the roots can be used in cooking, adding a unique sweetness to certain dishes.

  26. Invasive Potential: In some regions, Wild Liquorice can be invasive, outcompeting native vegetation.

  27. Root Beer Flavoring: The roots were historically used to flavor traditional root beer before the introduction of sassafras.

  28. Historical Use: Native American tribes used Wild Liquorice as a remedy for conditions such as sore throats, wounds, and as a general health tonic.

  29. Folklore: In some Native American folklore, the plant is associated with certain cultural stories and beliefs.

  30. Biodiversity Support: By providing nectar and habitat, Wild Liquorice contributes to the overall biodiversity of the ecosystems it inhabits.


Wild Liquorice filmed at Daneway Banks in Gloucestershire on the 27th June 2023.


Please remember to Like and Subscribe to the WildFlowerWeb YouTube channel at

Distribution Map

Reproduced by kind permission of the BSBI.

Click to open an Interactive Map