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Blue False Indigo

Blue False Indigo
Baptisia australis var. minor
(Order Fabales; Family Fabaceae)


Right: Blue False Indigo flowers (By ©Jeff McMillian, Almost Eden). Left: Blue False Indigo foliage (Photo by Heather Stewart, 2011).

Blue False Indigo can reach up to 4 feet tall.  Plants have smooth, hairless stems and alternate compound leaves that are divided into 3 rounded to oblong leaflets that are less than 2 inches long.  Lower leaves of this species are stalked while upper leaves are usually not.  Erect flowering stems extend above the leaves with alternate, deep blue flowers that can be more than 1 inch long.  The flowers have a notched, upright, upper petal and two smaller side petals that are close against the keel-like lower lip.  Seed pods are black, hairless, and 2-2 ½ inches long with a thin point at the tip.  These seed pods will rattle in the wind.  The sap of this plant turns purple or slate color when exposed to the air and the whole plant turns black in the fall.

Flowering Period:  May – June

Habitat: Blue False Indigo is often associated with limestone and can be found in rocky, sandy or clay soil.  It can be found along tree lines, bordering forested riparian areas and in open prairies.  This species does not grow well in shade.

Conservation Status:  Not threatened

Native Status:  Native to the United States

Kansas Distribution :  This species is found in the eastern two-thirds of Kansas.  From USDA PLANTS Database:

United States Distribution: Blue False Indigo is found throughout the tallgrass region in the United States.  It extends from Nebraska to Texas on the west to the eastern seaboard states.  It reaches into Canada and New Hampshire is the northeast limit of its native distribution.  Blue False Indigo is rarely found near the Gulf of Atlantic coasts.

Human Uses:  Today Blue False Indigo is commonly used as a drought-tolerant, maintenance-free ornamental plant.  The Cherokees and early settlers used this plant as a source of blue dye for clothes.  Some Native American tribes used the plant for medicinal purposes, such as eyewash, tea for stomach ailments, or pulverized root to relieve tooth pain.  Native American children would use the dried seed pods as rattles.


Video: Baptisia australis from White Flower Farm

Dyck Arboretum of the Plains:


YouTube: Baptisia australis from White Flower Farm:

Baptisia australis (L.) R. Br. PLANTS Profile. (2011). Retrieved July 29, 2011, from USDA PLANTS Database:

Baptisia australis var. minor. (2011). Retrieved July 29, 2011, from Dyck Arboretum of the Plains:

Barnard, I. (2010). A Pocket Guide to Kansas Flint Hills Wildflowers and Grasses. Great Plains Nature Center.

Haddock, M. J. (2005). Wildflowers & Grasses of Kansas. University Press of Kansas.

Ladd, D., & Oberle, F. (2005). Tallgrass Prairie Wildflowers (2nd Edition ed.). Globe Pequot Press.

Image Credits:
Blue False Indigo flowers by ©Jeff McMillian. Courtesy of Almost Eden. United States, LA.

Blue False Indigo foliage. Photo by Heather Stewart, 2011.

Blue False Indigo distribution in Kansas from Baptisia australis var. minor (2011).

North American distribution of Blue False Indigo from Baptisia australis (L.) R. Br. PLANTS Profile 2011.

Submitted by: Heather Stewart, July 2011

Wichita State University
Generated on 2011. This website is continuously updated.
Comments can be sent to Mary Liz Jameson.
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