Monday, June 30, 2014

Lead Plant

The lead plant (also spelled leadplant and lead-plant, also false indigo because of its resemblance to the indigo plant) appears throughout the central portion of the United States and Canada. This native Kansas perennial grows to three feet in height. The weight of the leaves and flowers cause the plant to droop. With age, it becomes woody, where not disrupted by fires or browsing from animals. The young stems and leaves are light green and covered with white hairs. New plants can be propagated from the stems.

Lead Plant, Butler County near El Dorado Lake

The small purple flowers are arranged along spikes, about 2-6" long, giving the appearance of a feather duster. The color ranges from light to deep purple. Each flower has a tubular petal.The reddish to orange stamens and yellow anthers are showy.

Lead Plant flower

Lead Plant flower

The young stems have a similar appearance to that of the unrelated fern except that the leaves alternate along a central stem. The are light green and covered with white hairs.

Lead Plant leaves

Lead Plant leaves

Native Americans used the leadplant leaves to make a tea with which they would treat pinworms, eczema, rheumatism, neuralgia, and cuts. Some tribes smoked the dried leaves and buffalo fat, believing that it could attract buffalo to the person that had it on their clothing. These tribes called the flower "buffallo bellows" as the flowering occurred at the time of year when the buffalo was in rut.

See USDA, Leadplant. 

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