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Wild Indigo

Wild Indigo

General Information

Scientific Name: Fabaceae Baptisia australis
Common Names:  Wild Indigo, indigo weed, rattle weed, horsefly weed
Zones 3-9
Growth Habit: mature plants produce mounds with flowering spires.
Height: 3-4 feet
Permaculture Designation:  Nitrogen Fixer, Flowering Beneficial, Herbaceous Layer, Medicinal, Craft


I started one this spring from seed and set it out in late May.  It’s still growing, but no sign of flowers.  Maybe next spring.  Forms a flowering mound with spires (Similar in appearance to lavender?).  The root is used medicinally, and there are ample warning in all sources of toxicity in large doses.


Start from seed.  Dividing is discouraged as the roots are really twisted and gnarled, and you could end up irreparably damaging the mother plant.


Preparations of the root (decoctions and tinctures) are purported to boost the immune system, and fight disease and infections.  Also used as a purgative and emetic, (I’m guessing in its stronger doses as it reaches toxic levels).  This is a probably not a preparation for the amateur to tackle.

As a member of the pea family, it is a nitrogen fixer.  The flowers are pretty, and can be used to make a blue dye that is not quite as colorfast as indigo.  The flower and pods are also used in floral arrangements.

Links to sites consulted: