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Montana Field Guide

Montana Field Guides

Lead Plant - Amorpha canescens

Species of Concern
Native Species

Global Rank: G5
State Rank: SH
(see State Rank Reason below)

Agency Status
MNPS Threat Rank:

External Links

State Rank Reason (see State Rank above)
Known from three historical collections from southeast Montana.
General Description
Lead Plant is a shrub with few to several, erect or ascending, simple or sparingly branched stems, which are 3-8 dm high. In marginal sites, the plant may die back to near the base each year. The alternate leaves have a short petiole and 27-41 narrowly elliptic leaflets, which are 8-15 mm long. Foliage is covered with very dense, short white hairs, giving the plant a hoary appearance. The violet flowers are borne in dense spike-like inflorescences, that are 7-15 cm long and arise on long stems from the leaf axils. Each small flower has a single petal longer than the densely hairy calyx that is ca. 2 mm long. There are 10 orange stamens exserted beyond the petal. The glandular and hairy fruits are ca. 4 mm long and egg-shaped with a long beak.

Flowering in late June-mid July; fruiting through summer.

Diagnostic Characteristics
Lead plant may be confused with members of the genera Dalea or Psoralea, but these plants are herbaceus and not shrubby like lead plant, they also have flowers with more than 1 petal.

Species Range
Montana Range


Range Comments
MT to MB, south to NM, TX and IL. Collected once in Carter County ca. 70 years ago (Lesica 2012. Manual of Montana Vascular Plants. BRIT Press. Fort Worth, TX).

Observations in Montana Natural Heritage Program Database
Number of Observations: 19

(Click on the following maps and charts to see full sized version) Map Help and Descriptions
Relative Density



(Observations spanning multiple months or years are excluded from time charts)

Grasslands, woodlands, often in sandy soil; plains (Lesica 2012. Manual of Montana Vascular Plants. BRIT Press. Fort Worth, TX).

Ecological Systems Associated with this Species

The following animal species have been reported as pollinators of this plant species or its genus where their geographic ranges overlap: Bombus pensylvanicus and Bombus griseocollis (Colla and Dumesh 2010).

  • Literature Cited AboveLegend:   View Online Publication
    • Colla, S.R. and S. Dumesh. 2010. The bumble bees of southern Ontario: notes on natural history and distribution. Journal of the Entomological Society of Ontario 141: 39-68.
  • Additional ReferencesLegend:   View Online Publication
    Do you know of a citation we're missing?
    • Heidel, B.L. and H. Marriott. 1996. Sensitive plant species survey of the Ashland District, Custer National Forest, Powder River and Rosebud Counties, Montana. Unpublished report to the U.S. Forest Service. Montana Natural Heritage Program, Helena, Montana. 94 pp. plus appendices.
    • Lesica, P., M.T. Lavin, and P.F. Stickney. 2012. Manual of Montana Vascular Plants. Fort Worth, TX: BRIT Press. viii + 771 p.
    • Vanderhorst, J.P., S.V. Cooper, and B.L. Heidel. 1998. Botanical and vegetation survey of Carter County, Montana. Unpublished report prepared for the Bureau of Land Management. Montana Natural Heritage Program, Helena. 116 pp. + app.
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Citation for data on this website:
Lead Plant — Amorpha canescens.  Montana Field Guide.  .  Retrieved on , from