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Baptisia australis

Baptisia australis (L.) R. Br.

 

Blue False Indigo, False Indigo, Blue Wild Indigo

KingdomPlantaePlants, but not fungi, lichens, or algae
SubkingdomTracheobiontaVascular plants—plants with a “circulatory system” for delivering water and nutrients
DivisionMagnoliophytaFlowering plants, also known as angiosperms
ClassMagnoliopsidaDicotyledons—plants with two initial seed leaves
SubclassRosidaeRoses, legumes, proteas, dogwoods, hydrangeas, mistletoes, euphorbias, grapes, many more
OrderFabalesLegumes (pea and bean families)
FamilyFabaceaeLegume family (peas and beans)
GenusBaptisiaFrom Greek baptizein, “to dye,” because members of this genus were used to prepare dye
SpeciesaustralisSouthern

About plant names...

Blue false indigo is native to North America. Baptisia means “to immerse”—a reference to this plant’s use for creating dye, and australis means southern (not Australian), though I cannot find out what is southern about this species. Both the Cherokees and European settlers used the plant as a dye. This is called “false indigo” because it was used as an inferior substitute for Indigofera tinctoria.

Compared below are varieties of blue false indigo, along with real indigo, which looks very different.

 

Baptisia australis (Blue False Indigo, False Indigo, Blue Wild Indigo)

6/17/2012 · Coastal Maine Botanical Gardens, Boothbay, ME
≈ 7 × 4½" (17 × 11 cm) ID is uncertain

Baptisia australis (Blue False Indigo, False Indigo, Blue Wild Indigo)

6/15/2010 · Garden in the Woods, Framingham, MA
≈ 15 × 10" (39 × 26 cm)

 
Indigofera tinctoria
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Baptisia australis

Baptisia australis var. minor
Common Name

Indigo

Blue False Indigo

Blue False Indigo
Plant Shrub, to 6' (1.8 m) high. 3-5' (1-1.5 m) high, about 20-39" (50-99 cm) around. 18-24" (45-60 cm) high.
Flowers Pink/violet flower clusters, each flower ½" (1.3 cm). Light blue to dark purple. Lavendar-blue.
Leaves Pairs of opposite, rounded leaves on thin, vinelike branches. Leaflets about ¾" (1.9 cm) long. 1-1½" (2.5-3.8 cm) long, green, bluish green, or grayish green, in groups of 3. Bluish-green, in groups of 3.
Fruit Clusters of bean pods, each 2" (5 cm) long. ⅞-3" (2.5-7.5 cm) × ⅜-⅞" (1.2-2.5 cm), bluish-black. ¾-1¾" (2-5 cm) long, brownish-black.
Range/ Zones

USDA Zones: 3-8

USDA Zones: 3-8
Habitats   Rich woods, thickets, meadows, stream banks  
Type Wild Wild Wild

 

Identification: Plants are 3-5' (1-1.5 m) high, and about 20-39" (50-100 cm) around. When broken, the hairless stems secrete a fluid that turns dark purple on contact with air. (It is this reaction, not the flowers, that resulted in its use for dye.) Leaves occur in groups of three, each about 1-1½" (2.5-3.8 cm) long, and may be green, bluish green, or grayish green. It’s pea-like flowers, appearing at or in a spike near the top, vary in color from light blue to dark purple. Fruits are bluish-black hard pods ⅞-3" (2.5-7.5 cm) long × ⅜-⅞" (1.3-2.5 cm) wide. Seeds rattling in the dried seedpods have tricked more than one person into thinking a rattlesnake is nearby.

Medical: Blue false indigo has been used to treat a wide range of ailments, described at Wikipedia and pfaf.org. A tea from the roots served as emetic and purgative. In poultices or in the mouth, it served as an anti-inflammatory. Many other uses have been documented as well.

Online References:

Baptisia australis on Wikipedia

Baptisia australis at Illinois Wildflowers

Baptisia australis on Missouriplants.com

Baptisia australis at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center

Baptisia australis on Plants for a Future, a resource and information centre for edible and otherwise useful plants

Baptisia australis on Kansas Wildflowers and Grasses

Baptisia australis at Purdue University's Center for New Crops and Plants Products

Baptisia australis (Blue False Indigo, False Indigo, Blue Wild Indigo)

5/22/2010 · Garden in the Woods, Framingham, MA
≈ 10 × 15" (26 × 39 cm)

Baptisia australis (Blue False Indigo, False Indigo, Blue Wild Indigo)

6/17/2012 · Coastal Maine Botanical Gardens, Boothbay, ME
≈ 16 × 24" (41 × 62 cm)

Baptisia australis description by Thomas H. Kent, last updated 20 Sep 2013.

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Baptisia australis (Blue False Indigo, False Indigo, Blue Wild Indigo)

6/17/2012 · Coastal Maine Botanical Gardens, Boothbay, ME
≈ 12 × 8" (31 × 20 cm) ID is uncertain

Baptisia australis (Blue False Indigo, False Indigo, Blue Wild Indigo)

6/15/2010 · Garden in the Woods, Framingham, MA
≈ 11 × 7" (27 × 18 cm)

Baptisia australis (Blue False Indigo, False Indigo, Blue Wild Indigo)

6/17/2012 · Coastal Maine Botanical Gardens, Boothbay, ME
≈ 9 × 6" (23 × 15 cm) ID is uncertain

Range: Zones 3-8:

About this map...