Oxytropis borealis var. viscida (Sticky Locoweed)
|Also known as:||Boreal Locoweed|
|Habitat:||part shade, sun; cliffs, exposed ridges, alpine meadows|
|Bloom season:||June - July|
|Plant height:||3 to 12 inches|
|Wetland Indicator Status:||none|
|MN county distribution (click map to enlarge):|
|National distribution (click map to enlarge):|
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Round cluster of 5 to 20 flowers, that may elongate into a short spike, at the tip of a leafless stem that is covered in long, white hairs and warty, sticky glands, the stem about as long as or rising a little above the leaves. Flowers are pink to purple then turning blue, ¼ to ½ inch long, pea-shaped and nearly stalkless. The erect upper petal (standard) has a large white patch streaked with darker lines, the 2 lateral petals fold over a keel that has a short curved projection (“beak”) at the tip.
The calyx has short narrow teeth around the tip and is covered in long, white hairs and warty, sticky glands. A green, leaf-like bract also covered in long hairs and warty, sticky glands is at the base of the very short flower stalk.
Leaves and stems:
Leaves are basal, forming a dense rosette around a flowering stem, compound with 11 to 25 pairs of leaflets. Leaflets are 1/8 to 1/3 inch long, lance-oblong to egg-shaped, pointed at the tip, mostly rounded at the base, stalkless, variously covered in long, white hairs, and becoming smaller as they ascend the leaf stalk. Stems are multiple from the base, a plant forming a dense clump.
In Minnesota, Sticky Locoweed is known only from a single location in Cook County on a north-facing cliff near the Canadian border. It is more common in alpine habitats in western North America from Colorado to California and north through Canada and Alaska. According to the DNR, the Minnesota population, first discovered in 1938, has persisted though is vulnerable to erosion as well as trampling from recreational activities. It was listed as an Endangered species in 1996.
Sticky Locoweed, formerly Oxytropis viscida, is part of the Oxytropis borealis complex, which consists of 4 variable varieties that are distinguished by flower color and size, compactness of the flower clusters, and some leaf characteristics. Two varieties, var. borealis and var. sulphurea, are restricted to Alaska, var. australis with creamy white flowers has a limited distribution in the mountains of the southwestern US, and var. viscida, the most common with pink to purple flowers, is present in western North America and scattered across Canada; Minnesota has the eastern-most population in the US.
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- Sticky Locoweed with Fragrant fern
- Sticky Locoweed in full bloom
- Sticky Locoweed habitat
- Sticky Locoweed with Bearberry
- early growth
- pollinator coming in for a landing
- more flowers
Photos by K. Chayka and Peter M. Dziuk taken in Cook County.
Have you seen this plant in Minnesota, or have any other comments about it?