Botanical Name: Amorpha canescens
Anishanaabe Name: we’abonag’kak
Height: slow growing shrub to about 1 m
Season of bloom: July
Growing Conditions: Full sun. Lean, well-drained soil
Wildlife benefits: Lead Plant is nutritious fodder for rabbits and deer. That may not be what you had in mind. The flowers of Lead Plant attract a great many species of bees.
From Ottawa Valley or eastern Ontario sources: No. The database of Vascular Plants of Canada considers Lead Plant to be native to Ontario. I thought it had occurred in the extreme south west corner of the Province but was now considered extirpated. Anyhow, my seed is from the prairies.
Seeds. Seed needs to be hulled to germinate. Reports of difficulty germinating this species are probably from trying to germinate unhulled seed. Beaux Arbres supplies hulled seed. (My hulling technique requires a heavy marble rolling pin, elbow grease, and ample cursing.) Germination Code: C(20) (short period of cold, moist stratification). Like all plants in the Pea family, Lead Plant needs to be inoculated with nitrogen fixing bacteria. If you have other native plants in the Pea family growing in your garden, such as Tick-trefoil, Milkvetch, or Bush Clover, a spoonful of soil from where they are growing added to your seed starting mix may help your Lead Plant seeds get going. Seedlings are very slow in their first two years, but quite sturdy.
Remarks: A nice small shrub for a sunny rock garden. A component of prairies, amid shorter grasses, like Blue Grama. Lead Plant blooms on new wood, so if your shrub is starting to get a bit leggy, a judicious early pruning can keep it compact. Lead Plant has evolved with prairie grass fires, which do the same sort of thing.
Similar species: Shrubby False Indigo
For information on availability or to return to the list of plants: Plants.