Tom's Blog

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Lead plant in full bloom

Lead plant (Amorpha canescens) is now in full bloom. At Pleasant Valley Conservancy we have remnant populations at four separate sites, two prairie and two savanna. The photo here is from our bur oak savanna.

When we first starting restoration of this savanna, there was no lead plant seen. After extensive clearing of underbrush and invasive trees, and several burns, lead plant appeared. At first there were just a few small plants, and there were no flowers. As the years have gone by, the population has increased in both size and number, and most of the plants are flowering.

Lead plant is one of those plants that disappears quickly under grazing. Although it is not the favorite food of cattle, they eat it readily when nothing else is available. As with many other legumes, it is a nitrogen fixer.

According to the USDA National Plant Database, this species is restricted to mid America, mostly in the Great Plains. It is actually a shrub, but with annual burns it has to start each year from scratch, sending up new shoots from its perennial root stock.

We have been planting lead plant at Pleasant Valley Conservancy for a number of years but it has been slow getting established from seed. We only have a few plants that we know came from seed, whereas the four remnants have many vigorously growing plants.

Although lead plant is fairly limited at Pleasant Valley Conservancy, the nearby Black Earth Rettenmund Prairie has outstanding populations, which are also now in full bloom (and well worth a visit!).


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