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False Indigo

Scientific name: Baptisia australis

Baptisia is a genus of about 20 species of herbaceous perennials, growing in mainly dry woodland and grassland areas. This native plant will do well in dry and gravelly soils and has deep roots that help it to resist drought. Its broken stems secrete a sap that turns dark blue, which gave this plant its common name. It was at one time used as a substitute for the dye producing plant indigo.

They typically grow from three to four feet tall and equally wide, forming dense clumps.They are a good choice for gardens as they are not often eaten by rabbits or deer and are low maintenance.



The grey-green trifoliate leaves (three leaves that make up one leaf) are arranged alternately, and are further divided into clover-like leaflets.



Varies in color from light blue to deep violet. Flowers are lupine-like and appear in a late-spring bloom atop erect stems extending well above a foliage mound of leaves. Flowers give way to attractive inflated seed pods which persist into fall.


Blooming Season

Spring to summer.

Fun Facts

Several American Indian tribes have made use of the plant for a variety of purposes. The Cherokees used it as a source of blue dye, a practice later copied by European settlers. They also would use the roots in teas as a purgative or to treat tooth aches and nausea, while the Osage made an eyewash with the plant.



Easily grown in average, dry to medium, well-drained soil in full sun to part shade. Best in full sun in acidic, somewhat poor soils. Good drought tolerance due to its extensive roots system which can be as deep as 12 feet! Once planted, it is difficult to move.


Ecosystem Connections

Attracts butterflies.

Human Connections

Young shoots of the plant have been mistaken for asparagus, which results in poisoning. The seeds, also, may be toxic, especially for children.


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