Native Plants to Know: Leadplant

Written by Joel Springsteen
    Thursday, 09 August 2018
Native Plants to Know: Leadplant

Those who prefer instantaneous beauty or plump plants may give up on leadplant (Amorpha canescens) well before it reaches "maturity" at 5+ years of age, but the patient gardener will be rewarded with decades of drought resistant silvery foliage and purple flowers.

In addition to providing food for pollinators, the leaves and stems support 9 species of moth caterpillars, 10 species of beetles, and 15 species of grasshoppers, which translate(s) into a lot of insect protein for birds and bats!

Leadplant blog colors

Leadplant (Amorpha canescens) Photo: Joel Springsteen

No two leadplant are the same, with variation in shape of plant and inflorescence, as well as intensity of flower color, demonstrating genetic diversity. Leadplant will grow in any type of soil provided it's in a well drained spot. While happiest in full sun, it will get by well enough in partial shade. Because this sub-shrub is adapted to fire it can be cut to ground level every year or every couple of years to rejuvenate its growth.

For those focusing on native plants, leadplant is a good native alternative to butterfly bush (Buddleja sp.) and Russian sage (Perovskia atriplicifolia). As a member of the pea family, leadplant partners with bacteria in its root nodules to convert atmospheric nitrogen to a form available to plants.


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Leadplant, a purple and silver plant native to Wisconsin

Leadplant (Amorpha canescens) Photo: Joel Springsteen
Joel Springsteen

Joel Springsteen

Joel was born and raised in Papua New Guinea. While in middle school, a project to plant a backyard “rainforest" evolved into a full-blown obsession with habitat restoration. Soon after reaching a peak height of 6ft 2in, Joel moved to Milwaukee. He was amazed to discover that most native plants are conspicuously absent from the city and suburbs. He loves restoring native plant/animal communities because it combines history, ecology, and other disciplines. Joel has degrees in linguistics and biology with an emphasis in botany and conservation. He has been a land steward at the UEC since 2006.


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