Amorpha canescens (Lead Plant)
|Also known as:||Shoestrings|
|Life cycle:||perennial woody|
|Habitat:||sun; dry prairies, sandy open woods|
|Bloom season:||June - August|
|Plant height:||1 to 3 feet|
|MN county distribution (click map to enlarge):|
|National distribution (click map to enlarge):|
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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:
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.
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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Where to buy native seed and plants ↓
- clump of Lead Plant with Butterfly-weed and Black-eyed Susan
- more plants
- Lead Plant in oak savannah
- more flowers
Photos by K. Chayka taken at Long Lake Regional Park, New Brighton, MN. Photos courtesy Peter M. Dziuk taken in Anoka county.
Have you seen this plant in Minnesota, or have any other comments about it?