Description: Topped by spike-like masses of tiny purple blossoms, it is not picky about soil type, and will grow in all types of medium to very dry sandy, gravel, loam, and clay. Loved by pollinators! The plant's tough roots made pioneer plowing difficult, causing early settlers to dub it "Devil's Shoestrings." Its deep roots enable the plant to survive prairie fires and times of drought. After very tough winters, it may die back to the ground but the extreme long-lived nature of Lead Plant and its deep tap root will usually allow it to recover. It can be late to leaf out compared to other shrubs and trees, so be patient. Leadplant has nitrogen fixing qualities, with its nodulated roots that are filled with beneficial nitrogen-fixing bacteria.
Attracts: Long-tongued bees, short-tongued bees, and wasps. Among the bees are such visitors as bumblebees, Leaf-Cutting bees (Megachile spp.), Green Metallic bees, and Plasterer bees (Colletes spp.); the Andrenid bee, Andrena quintilis, is an oligolege of Leadplant. The caterpillars of Colias cesonia (Dogface Sulphur) eat the foliage occasionally, but this butterfly often fails to overwinter successfully in Illinois. Other insects that feed on the foliage, flowers, seeds, and other parts of Leadplant include grasshoppers (Melanoplus spp. & others), broad-headed bugs (Alydus spp.), the plant bugs Lopidea instabilis and Plagiognathus amorphae, leaf beetles (Pachybrachis spp. & others), larvae of moths (Catocala spp. & others), and the leafhopper Scaphytopius cinereus. Many of these insects, especially grasshoppers, are an important source of food to insectivorous birds and other animals. Mammalian herbivores, such as deer, rabbits, and livestock, are very fond of this plant. It is high in protein and quite palatable. This can make Leadplant difficult to establish in areas where these animals are abundant.
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