Oxytropis ochrocephala is an erect or sprawling, herbaceous perennial plant growing from a multi-headed caudex; it produces a tuft of stems 10 - 56cm tall[
The plant is harvested from the wild for local use as a medicine. It is one of the most extensively used herbs in traditional Tibetan folk medicine[
We have no information for this species, but several members of this genus are known to be potentially toxic, particularly to grazing animals.
Some members of the genus are known to contain the indolizidine alkaloid 'swainsonine'. Chronic intoxication with this alkaloid causes a variety of neurological disorders in grazing animals along with reduced appetite which can lead to weight loss and cessation of reproductive ability. Swainsonine has also been found to have potential for use in anti-cancer drug treatments.
In some species, other alkaloids are suspected of causing toxicity.
In addition, some members of the genus have been reported to accumulate selenium - although this is an essential trace element it can be toxic in higher doses. Signs and symptoms of selenium toxicity include a garlic odour on the breath, gastrointestinal disorders, hair loss, sloughing of nails, fatigue, irritability, and neurological damage - in extreme cases it can result in death.
E. Asia - northern and central China (Gansu, Hebei, Nei Mongol, Ningxia, Qinghai, Sichuan, Xinjiang, Xizang)
Grasslands, weedy slopes and alpine meadows; at elevations from 1,800 - 4,500 metres[
Oxytropis species generally grow best in a very sunny position in a deep, well-drained, sandy or gritty soil[
]. Species with woolly leaves greatly resent winter wet[200[.
Many species in this genus are suitable as ornamentals, valued for their clusters of flowers and their attractive foliage. However, species often fail in cultivation, often because of a lack of an appropriate Rhizobium bacterium[
Members of this genus are generally resentful of root disturbance and, if the seed is not sown in situ, then seedlings need to be planted into their permanent positions as soon as possible[
We have seen no specific information for this species, but most members of this genus have a symbiotic relationship with certain soil bacteria; these bacteria form nodules on the roots and fix atmospheric nitrogen. Some of this nitrogen is utilized by the growing plant but some can also be used by other plants growing nearby.
The plant is used to clear heat through detumescence, strengthen the body, and improve the immune system[
We have no further information, but the foliage and roots of several species in this genus are used medicinally and are generally considered to be useful for detoxification, pain relief, and for reducing inflammation. They are used to treat a range of conditions including malaria, haemorrhages, constipation, anthrax, tonsillitis and to eliminate blood stasis[
]. They are also used externally to cure sores.[
Pre-soak the seed for 24 hours in warm water and then sow in a greenhouse in early spring. Prick out the seedlings into individual pots as soon as the cotyledons emerge in order to avoid damage to the root. Grow them on in deep pots in a cold greenhouse or cold frame, and plant them out the following spring[