Amorpha nana (Fragrant False Indigo)
|Also known as:||Dwarf False Indogo, Dwarf Lead Plant, Smooth Lead Plant, Fragrant Indigo-bush|
|Life cycle:||perennial woody|
|Habitat:||sun; dry prairie|
|Bloom season:||June - July|
|Plant height:||1 to 2 feet|
|Wetland Indicator Status:||GP: UPL MW: FACU NCNE: FACU|
|MN county distribution (click map to enlarge):|
|National distribution (click map to enlarge):|
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Single, 1 to 3-inch dense spike clusters of small vibrantly colored tubular-like flowers at the ends of branching stems. Individual flowers are less than ¼ inch long, the “tube” a single upper petal (in Fabacea called the “standard”) wrapped tightly around a cluster of bright red stamens protruding out the center, contrasting with the deep purple to blue-violet petal color. A dark sepal with five lance-like lobes covers the lower half of the rolled petal. Flowers bloom from the bottom of the spike up.
Leaves and stems:
Leaves are compound in groups of 6 to 15 leaflet pairs, alternately attached on the branching stems. The compound leaf is up to 3 inches long. Leaflets average about ½ long, are oblong-oval, bluntly rounded at both ends, often with an abrupt sharp point at the tip; surfaces are smooth, the undersides have conspicuous translucent dots. Main stems are woody, brown and generally simple to few branched below but typically produce clusters of non-woody, flowering branches in the crown that die back every year. Stems appear smooth and glossy but may have fine, short hairs pressed against the surface.
Amorpha nana is found in open prairie like the similar and closely related Amorpha canescens (Lead Plant) but its range extends neither as far west or east as the latter species. Its relatively short stature may limit it to short grass regions though it does not appear to be as tolerant of extremely sandy soils. The two species are readily differentiated by the lack of fine hairs on A. nana, giving it a darker green appearance; the dense, fine coating on common A. canescens gives it a lighter, duller appearance (leaden) from which it got its common name. The flower spike of A. nana is more stout and always single while A. canescens is longer, more slender and typically has multiple spikes at each branch tip, the flowers with orange stamens rather than red.
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Photos by K. Chayka taken in Lac Qui Parle WMA. Photos courtesy Peter M. Dziuk taken in Lac Qui Parle WMA and in North Dakota.
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