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Baptisia australis (L.) R. Br. var. minor (Lehm.) Fernald

Blue false 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
var.minorSmaller, lesser

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. Minor probably refers to the smaller size of this variety.

Identification: Plants are 18-24" (45-60 cm) high. Leaves occur in groups of three, each about 1" (2.5 cm) long, and are bluish green. It’s pea-like flowers, appearing at or in a spike near the top, are lavender-blue. Fruits are brownish-black hard pods ¾-1¾" (2-5 cm) long × ⅜-½" (1-1.5 cm) wide.

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


Baptisia australis (blue false indigo)

5/15/2010 · Garden in the Woods, Framingham, Mass­a­chu­setts
≈ 17 × 14" (43 × 36 cm)

Indigofera tinctoria

Baptisia australis
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Baptisia australis var. minor
Common Name


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


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 var. minor at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center

Baptisia australis var. minor on Wikipedia

Baptisia australis var. minor at the Digging Dog Nursery

Baptisia australis var. minor on the USDA Plants Database

Baptisia australis var. minor at the Missouri Botanical Garden

Baptisia australis var. minor on sfyl.ifas.ufl.edu

Baptisia minor

Baptisia minor Lehm.

Baptisia texana Buckley

Baptisia vespertina Small ex Rydb.


Baptisia australis var. minor description by Thomas H. Kent, last updated 16 Sep 2020.

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Range: Zones 3-8:

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