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A sub-shrubby plant 2 to 4 ft high, entirely covered with grey down. Stems erect, unbranched, springing from a woody base to which they largely die back every winter. Leaves pinnate, 2 to 3 in. long, composed of from ten to twenty pairs of leaflets and an odd one; leaflets 3⁄8 to 5⁄8 in. long, oblong or ovate, stalkless, extending the entire length of the main stalk; they are downy on both sides, but paler beneath. Flowers thickly crowded on cylindrical spikes, 3 to 6 in. long, produced from the leaf-axils near the apex of the shoot, and thus forming a large, leafy panicle 6 to 10 (sometimes 15 to 18) in. high. Each flower is about 1⁄4 in. long, with a dull purplish-blue standard petal, and a grey downy calyx; they are borne close enough together to touch. Pod less than 1⁄4 in. long, hairy, one-seeded. Anthers conspicuously orange-coloured. Bot. Mag., t. 6618.
Native of eastern N. America; introduced in 1812. It flowers from late July to September, and only ripens seeds during very fine autumns. It may be increased by cuttings made of shoots too weak to flower, which must be rooted in gentle warmth. It makes a large deep root-stock, which enables it not only to withstand, but to thrive best in, hot, droughty seasons. It is an interesting and rather striking plant which is well suited for the front of a shrubbery. In a wild state it extends over a considerable latitude, and shows some variation in the grey tints of its stems and leaves, and especially in the size and openness of its inflorescence. The popular name of “lead plant” is founded on the belief which once prevailed that its presence in a wild state indicated the existence of lead ore beneath the soil.