Oxytropis borealis var. viscida (Sticky Locoweed)

Plant Info
Also known as: Boreal Locoweed
Family:Fabaceae (Pea)
Life cycle:perennial
  • State Endangered
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):Minnesota county distribution map
National distribution (click map to enlarge):National distribution map

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Detailed Information

Flower: Flower shape: irregular Cluster type: round Cluster type: spike

[photo of flowers] 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.

[photo of calyx and glands] 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: Leaf attachment: basal Leaf type: compound

[photo of leaves] 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.

Fruit: Fruit type: capsule/pod

[photo of fruit] Fruit is an erect, hairy, cylindric pod curving outward at the tip and about ½ inch long. The pod turns papery brown when ripe, splitting open at the tip.


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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More photos

Photos by K. Chayka and Peter M. Dziuk taken in Cook County.


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