Amorpha canescens (Lead Plant)

Plant Info
Also known as: Shoestrings
Genus:Amorpha
Family:Fabaceae (Pea)
Life cycle:perennial woody
Origin:native
Habitat:sun; dry prairies, sandy open woods
Bloom season:June - August
Plant height:1 to 3 feet
MN county distribution (click map to enlarge):Minnesota county distribution map
National distribution (click map to enlarge):National distribution map

Pick an image for a larger view. See the glossary for icon descriptions.

Detailed Information

Flower: Flower shape: irregular Flower shape: tubular Cluster type: spike

[photo of flowers] Dense spike clusters 2 to 6 inches long of many small flowers with protruding bright orange-tipped stamens. Individual flowers are less than ¼ inch long with a relatively broad upper petal that wraps around the stamens creating a tube, then flattens out after pollination. Color ranges from light purple to deep blue-violet. One plant typically has 5 or more spikes at the end of branching stems, the terminal spike being longer than the surrounding spikes. Flowers bloom from the bottom of the spike up.

Leaves and stem: Leaf attachment: alternate Leaf type: compound

[photo of leaves] Compound leaves may have as many as 50 leaflets. Each leaflet is about ¾ inch long and is generally oval to egg-shaped, rounded at both ends. Leaves are covered in fine white hairs, giving them a woolly grayish appearance. Main stems are brown and woody; the few branching stems are typically grayish green from fine white hairs.

Fruit: Fruit type: seed without plume

[photo of fruit] Fruit is a densely hairy pod with the remains of the pistil at the top. The pod contains a single seed.

[photo of seed] Seed is a smooth brown bean less than 1/8 inch long, oval with a slight hook at the tip.

Notes:

Lead Plant tends to grow in clumps. According to one of my field guides, Lead Plant can live for centuries and not grow larger than 3 feet tall. Technically a shrub, the woody stems usually persist through winter but may die back and resprout in spring. The woody stems are also removed by fire but this species has very deep roots and survives fire well. It has its place in the backyard garden, the foliage and flower spikes both add interest. It is overall similar in appearance to Silky Prairie Clover (Dalea villosa) but the latter has more pinkish flowers with yellow stamens, fewer leaflets per compound leaf and its stems are densely covered in woolly hairs and are not woody.

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More photos

Photos by K. Chayka taken at Long Lake Regional Park, New Brighton, MN. Photos courtesy Peter M. Dziuk taken in Anoka county.

Comments

Have you seen this plant in Minnesota, or have any other comments about it?

Posted by: Mary in Stearns County
on: 2008-06-08 17:26:28

You've helped me to name another plant. I took a picture of a lead plant by a pond in Waite Park on one of my walks last year. Waite Park is in Stearns County.

Posted by: Sara in Brainerd, Crow Wing County
on: 2010-07-22 14:14:13

I just noticed a new plant along the road, in between ours & the nieghbors' property, near the Gull Lake Dam. Great website, I found the flower right away!

Posted by: Emily in Maple Grove
on: 2010-07-25 13:53:18

I think there are a bunch of these at the Maple Grove mall area. They're being used in flower arrangements. I took a photo and I've been trying to find out what it is.

Posted by: Robyn in Litchfield
on: 2011-06-14 19:53:13

I have seen this by the lake in town and didn't know what they were. They are so beautiful. I love this website. Thank you so much for such a great resource!

Posted by: Paul in Ottawa Bluffs, Le Sueur County, Nature Conservancy tract.
on: 2013-10-21 09:57:41

This plant grows in profusion in the open areas of the Nature Conservancy preserve just east of St. Peter.

Posted by: Edward in Crow Hassan Park Reserve Hennepin county
on: 2014-07-23 21:48:07

Blooming in great profusion on July 20

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