Oxytropis campestris var. chartacea

Field Locoweed

FWS Focus



Fassett's locoweed, a federally threatened plant since 1988, is endemic to Wisconsin; the species is found only in Bayfield, Portage and Waushara counties. It is a perennial in the pea family that grows on gentle slopes in sand-gravel shorelines around shallow lakes which are subject to water level fluctuations. The plant depends on the open habitat, above the water line, provided when lake levels are low, and a large seed bank that germinates in this open habitat for long-term population maintenance. It starts to bloom in early May, and flowers can be found through late June, but its presence depends on water level. If water levels are high, the plant may not be present or may not bloom.

There are several threats known to Fassett’s locoweed. Residential development and recreational use around the small lakes where most Fassett’s locoweed populations occur have caused disturbance and destruction of the species’ habitat. Cattle grazing has also degraded the habitat and destroyed plants. Other threats to this species include irrigation of surrounding agricultural lands, which diminishes lake levels by lowering the water table, and pesticide runoff from agricultural and residential areas.

What is being done to prevent extinction of Fassett’s locoweed?

Recovery plan - The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service prepared a recovery plan in 1991 that describes actions needed to help this plant survive. Those actions include protecting sites that now support Fassett’s locoweed, providing information to landowners who may have Fassett’s locoweed on their property, and using research results to develop and improve management and protection measures.

Research - Fassett’s locoweed populations have been monitored to determine long-term population trends and to understand habitat and reproductive requirements. Studies on the viability and germination of seeds and the survivability of seedlings have been conducted to understand population structure structure
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Learn more about structure
and maintenance.

Habitat protection - The Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources owns two state natural areas that support Fassett’s locoweed. Also, the agency has a landowner contact program, and through that program numerous private landowners have voluntarily agreed to protect the plants on their shorelines.

Public education - Presentations are given to school groups, clubs and conservation organizations to educate people about this and other rare plants.

Scientific Name

Oxytropis campestris var. chartacea
Common Name
field locoweed
Fassett's locoweed
FWS Category
Flowering Plants

Location in Taxonomic Tree

Identification Numbers



Characteristic category

Life Cycle


The species reproduces entirely by seed. Flowers bloom from mid-May through mid-June. Both small and large bees have been observed visiting flowers, but the pollinator is not definitely known. Fassett’s locoweed apparently depends on the open habitat provided during times of low lake levels and a large seed bank of dormant seeds in the soil for long-term population maintenance.

Life Span

Fassett’s locoweed plants live for several years, reappearing each spring from underground perennial tap roots.

Characteristic category



Fassett’s locoweed grows on gentle, sand-gravel shoreline slopes around shallow lakes fed by groundwater seepage. These lakes are subject to frequent, large fluctuations in water levels.


A considerable inland body of standing water.

Springs or Seeps

Areas where ground water meets the surface.

Characteristic category

Physical Characteristics

Size & Shape

Fassett’s locoweed is a 4- to 12-inch tall perennial herb of the pea family. The flowers are pea-like, 1/2 to 3/4 inch long. An individual plant produces one to 20 stems, and each stem can have 10 to 20 flowers. On a mature plant the leaves, which grow from a common base, are 3 to 8 inches long and are made up of 18 to 30 leaflets, each about an inch or less in length.

Color & Pattern

Fassett’s locoweed’s stem and leaves appears silvery-grey in color because of white, silky hairs that cover most of the plant. The flowers are rose-pink to violet and produce numerous pale yellow pods that contain small black seeds.



Fassett’s locoweed is known from a few sites in Bayfield, Portage, and Waushara counties in Wisconsin - and nowhere else in the world. Scientists think that the species is a remnant from the flora of 10,000 years ago when there were two large glacial lakes in the area.

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