Plant of the Week: Leadplant

Photo by Friends of the High LineLeadplant is a deciduous subshrub that grows throughout the High Line. Photo by Friends of the High Line

The High Line’s planting design is inspired by the self-seeded landscape that grew up between rail tracks after the trains stopped running in the 1980s. Today, the High Line includes more than 300 species of perennials, grasses, shrubs, and trees – each chosen for their hardiness, adaptability, diversity, and seasonal variation in color and texture. Some of the species that originally grew on the High Line’s rail bed are reflected in the park landscape today.

This week we share one of our gardeners’ current favorites with you.

Amorpha canescens, or leadplant, is a small deciduous subshrub native to open woodlands and prairies in the central United States. It now grows outside of its native range throughout the Eastern states as well. A member of the Fabaceae family, leadplant roots have bacterial nodules that convert atmospheric nitrogen into a usable form in the soil for the plant and its neighbors to use. This symbiotic relationship, called nitrogen fixation, is common in the Fabaceae family. Leadplants prefer full sun, and may sprawl in partial shade conditions. This deep-rooted plant recovers well from animal browsing, fire, and winter die-back.

Slender stems covered in fine white hairs support small, gray-green pinnately compound leaves that emerge in late spring. Many insects and animals are fond of feeding on its foliage, which is high in protein. Showy purple terminal flower spikes bloom in late summer and attract a variety of pollinators. The delicate, clustered seed spikes of the leadplant provide winter interest in the garden.

Now is a good time to observe Amorpha canescens, while herbaceous perennials are cut back all around it on the High Line this month. You can find leadplants growing throughout the park – in the Washington Grasslands, Hudson River Overlook, Chelsea Grasslands, and in the Wildflower Field.

Download our March Bloom Guide.

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