Alternate name: False Indigo; Prairie Shoestring
Family: Fabaceae, Pea view all from this family
Description Leadplant, which bears beautiful dark purple spikes, takes its common name from the light grey tinge cast by the fine hairs covering its leaves, stems, and unopened flowers.
Habit: native perennial subshrub or shrub; spreading, branched.
Height: to 8-40 in (0.2-1 m).
Leaf: alternate, bipinnate, 4-12 in (10-30 cm) long; leaflets narrowly oblong, to 0.5 in (12 mm) long and 0.25 in (6 mm) wide, 13-25 pairs.
Flower: tiny, with one pale purple to purple-blue petal and 8 conspicuous orange-red stamens; in congested terminal spike, 2-6 in (5-15 cm) long, of up to 100 flowers.
Fruit: oblong pod, small, thin, 0.2 in (5 mm) long.
Flower May to August.
Habitat Open sites with well drained soil: upland prairies, bluffs, open woodlands, hillsides, prairies, open woodlands, roadsides, occasionally shaded ravines; sometimes cultivated as an ornamental.
Range Native to central North America, from Manitoba and Ontario, southwest to Indiana and Louisiana, west to New Mexico, north to Montana.
Discussion Also called prairie shoestring. It has high wildlife value for food and nesting and is an indicator of good rangeland. Plains Indians smoked the leaves and made tea.