Portraits of Wildflowers

Perspectives on Nature Photography

Two more native plants from southwest Missouri

with 21 comments

Liatris pycnostachya Plant Developing 6689

The one above is Liatris pycnostachya. Its buds and flowers were still a long way off—this is a fall-blooming species—but look at the developmental patterns in this earlier stage. Below you see a lead plant, Amorpha canescens.

Lead Plant 6737

These pictures are from a June 4th visit to the Diamond Grove Prairie in southwest Missouri with Scott Lenharth, who identified the plants for me.

© 2016 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

July 8, 2016 at 4:48 AM

21 Responses

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  1. The lead plant blooms are rather lavender-like. Very pretty.


    July 8, 2016 at 6:13 AM

    • I see what you mean. I just checked and found that lavender is in the mint family, while the lead plant is a legume.

      Steve Schwartzman

      July 8, 2016 at 7:12 AM

      • Yes, different families, but as mint is often served with peas, we could say the lead plant and the lavender go well together.


        July 8, 2016 at 7:27 AM

  2. The lead plant was one of my favorites when I was in Columbia, Mo. Too bad Central Texas is not in its bio-region!

    Judy T

    July 8, 2016 at 9:11 AM

    • It is too bad, but in central Texas we have Amorpha fruticosa and Amorpha cansescens, though I’ve rarely seen them.

      Steve Schwartzman

      July 8, 2016 at 10:13 AM

  3. This is one of the most beautiful shots of lead plant I’ve seen! They are only now coming in to bloom up here.


    July 8, 2016 at 11:51 AM

    • I’m glad to oblige with this picture, Melissa. You have the advantage of seeing lead flowers now in Illinois. Even much earlier in the season here in central Texas, I rarely encounter our two local species.

      Steve Schwartzman

      July 8, 2016 at 12:29 PM

  4. Your featured image is intriguing … at first glance it looked as though the lower half of the plant might be underwater. I enjoy photos that have more than just the obvious … thanks for posting.


    July 8, 2016 at 1:48 PM

    • I hadn’t thought about it till you pointed it out: the part of the plant that’s out of focus is similar to the blurring that being under water can impart. I’m all for the obvious coupled with the not-so-obvious.

      Steve Schwartzman

      July 8, 2016 at 2:00 PM

  5. When I looked at the lead plant, the leaves reminded me of Lindheimer’s senna, which would put lead plant in the pea family, too. When i checked, that’s exactly what I found.

    I am curious about something I found on this Illinois Wildflower page. They say that it’s in the bean family. I’ve never seen “bean” used rather than “pea.” Is that common? Are they used interchangeably?

    That same page does mention that “the presence of lead plant is a sign of high quality habitat.” Given that Diamond Grove has mima mounds, too, it must be a lovely prairie.


    July 8, 2016 at 9:58 PM

    • Ah, Lindheimer’s senna, whose soft leaflets have little hairs that trap drops of rain or dew. I’ve seen writers refer to the family that these plants are in as the bean family, the pea family, and the legume family. So yes, all are used interchangeably. The scientific name for the family is Fabaceae, in which you see the same linguistic root that gives us the fava bean.

      Too bad we still had so far to drive that day, or we would have spent more time at Diamond Grove. Turn me loose on a prairie and I can easily spend hours. We’ll see how long you spend there when you pass through the area.

      Steve Schwartzman

      July 8, 2016 at 11:40 PM

  6. Lovely Steve .. That lead plant is pretty, bet the bees love it! 😊


    July 10, 2016 at 2:05 PM

  7. Funny that the Lead Plant would be Amorpha when it is so well defined.

    Steve Gingold

    July 10, 2016 at 2:27 PM

    • My etymological mind wondered about that too. Shinners and Mahler’s says the name reflects the absence of four of the petals in this genus.

      Steve Schwartzman

      July 10, 2016 at 2:45 PM

  8. Absence isn’t the same as formless so it is still surprising if not befuddling.

    Steve Gingold

    July 10, 2016 at 2:50 PM

    • Yeah, I also felt that that explanation seems unconvincing, but for better or worse somebody chose that genus name and now we’re stuck with it.

      Steve Schwartzman

      July 10, 2016 at 2:55 PM

      • Actually, now days, it’s mainly based on plant DNA, but the Amorphas are still Fabaceaes and Amorphas!

        Judy T

        July 10, 2016 at 11:12 PM

        • So far they are, but you never know for how long. A biologist who led a field trip I went on last year said we’ve reached the point where common names in some case have been more stable than scientific names.

          Steve Schwartzman

          July 11, 2016 at 5:14 AM

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