Scamman’s Oxytrope – Oxytropis scammaniana

Alaska Wildflowers | Pink | Purple

The flowers of Scamman's oxytrope (oxytropis scammaniana) in Denali National Park, Alaska.

Scamman’s oxytrope

Oxytropis scammaniana

Common Names

Scamman’s locoweed
Scamman’s oxytrope





Genus: Oxytropis
Family: Fabaceae (peas, legumes)
Order: Fabales
full classification

Duration – Growth Habit

Perennial – Forb/herb

Identification and Information

Scamman’s Oxytrope is a perennial herb that grows from a taproot covered in straw-colored stipules (look like leaf stalks). The leaves are basal and pinnately compound, 2-9 cm (0.75-3.5 inches) long, with 9-13 lanceolate to elliptic leaflets. The leaflet margins are often curled and can have black or white hairs, or be glabrous.

The flowering stems are 2-10 cm long (about the same length or slightly longer than the leaves), and terminate at a raceme of 1-5 (sometimes more, most frequently 3) purple, bluish, or pink flowers. The flowers are bilaterally symmetric with a bell-shaped calyx (sepals) that encapsulate the base of the purple, tube-shaped corolla and are covered in black hairs. The corolla is composed of three petals, the lowest being pointed, the hood much larger and rounded, often white in the middle with purple veins. The fruits are 11-18mm long pods, also covered in black hairs.


For information only (typically historical) – I take no responsibility for adverse effects from the use of any plant.

No food of medicinal uses was found. It may be toxic, at least if eaten in large quantities. Like other locoweeds, it contains swainsonine, an indolizidine alkaloid that is known to be poisonous to people and livestock. Its use is being investigated as a potential chemotherapy drug (Swainsonine: Wiki).

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Distribution and Habitat

Scamman’s oxytrope is primarily found in Alaska and eastern Yukon. It also lives in a few isolated spots in northern British Columbia. There are very few instances found in the Northwest Territories and, according to GBIF, a single instance on the Russian territory of Wrangel Island in the Arctic Ocean (not included in map).

Oxytropis scammaniana tends to live in dry and rocky areas like slopes and ridges in alpine areas and tundra. (The ecological Atlas of Denali’s Flora states that it lives in moist and wet areas including snowbeds, but this does not agree with all other sources I found or my own observation, but I thought it worth mentioning as it may live in a variety of habitats).


RankScientific Name (Common Name)
KingdomPlantae (plantes, Planta, Vegetal, plants)
   SubkingdomViridiplantae (green plants)
      InfrakingdomStreptophyta (land plants)
            DivisionTracheophyta (vascular plants, tracheophytes)
               SubdivisionSpermatophytina (spermatophytes, seed plants, phanérogames)
                           FamilyFabaceae (peas, legumes)
                              GenusOxytropis DC. (locoweed, crazyweed)
                                 SpeciesOxytropis scammaniana Hultén (Scamman’s oxytrope)

References and Further Reading

Classification and Taxonomy

O. scammaniana Hultén Taxonomic Serial No.: 26181, ITIS Database

Uses (Toxicity)

O. scammaniana (Scamman’s oxytrope), Ecological Atlas of Denali’s Flora

Swainsonine, Wikipedia

Map and Distribution

O. scammaniana Hultén Published in: Ark. Bot. 33B(1): 4 (1947), GBIF Database

Description and Information

O. scammaniana Hultén, E-Flora BC: Electronic Atlas of the Flora of British Columbia

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