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Leadplant (aka prairie shoestring) is a small, deciduous shrub with spiky clusters of purple flowers.  A true prairie plant, it develops long roots and may survive for centuries.  It takes a few years to mature and may need to be protected from browsing mammals until established. 


Leadplant is a nitrogen-fixer that is native slightly to our west. "Nitrogen-fixing" plants absorb nitrogen from the air through their leaves and "fix" it in the soil through nodules that grow on their roots. These nodules contribute to the growth of the plant as well as overall soil health.  When nitrogen-fixing trees and bushes are pruned, this causes the plant to release stored nitrogen into the surrounding soil where other plants can take it up.


Native habitats include open woodlands, prairies, glades, and savannas.  This showy plant controls erosion and works well in rock gardens or large areas.


Plant Characteristics:

Grows 1-3’ tall and wide.


Prefers full to part sun; may be leggy in full shade.


Grows in well-drained, medium-to-dry soils, but tolerates a wide range of soil types, including sand, rock, loam, and clay. Tolerates drought and wind. Can become invasive if soil is too rich.   


Blue-and-purple flowers with orange stamens appear in June and July.  Fruit is a hairy pod with a single seed. 


Oval-shaped compound leaves are silvery-gray with fine, white hairs.


Wildlife Value:

Leadplant is a larval host for southern dogface butterfly and leadplant flower moth.  It attracts native bees and wasps, grasshoppers, broad-headed bugs, leaf beetles, and leafhoppers.  Deer, rabbits, and livestock will heavily browse this high-protein plant, releasing nitrogen into the soil for nearby plants.   


Medicinal and Edible Uses:

Native Americans used the leaves for smoking and for making tea to treat rheumatism and pinworm.  They also put the leaves on open wounds. 

Leadplant, Amorpha canescens

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