Baptisia bracteata (Plains Wild Indigo)

Plant Info
Also known as: Cream Wild Indigo, Cream False Indigo, Long-bract Wild Indigo
Genus:Baptisia
Family:Fabaceae (Pea)
Life cycle:perennial
Origin:native
Status:
  • State Special Concern
Habitat:part shade, sun; dry to average moisture, prairies, open woodlands
Bloom season:May - June
Plant height:10 to 30 inches
Wetland Indicator Status:none
MN county distribution (click map to enlarge):Minnesota county distribution map
National distribution (click map to enlarge):National distribution map

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Detailed Information

Flower: Flower shape: irregular Cluster type: raceme

[photo of flowers] Dense cascading racme of creamy yellow pea-shaped flowers, often touching the ground from the weight of the blooms. Flowers are ¾ to 1 inch long, with a broad upper petal (standard) flaring up, cleft in the middle, the large lateral wings below it extending forward, enclosing from above but spreading below to reveal the two keel petals underneath. The tubular calyx holding the flower has short silky hairs and a short stalk, with a leafy bract at the base of the stalk.

Leaves and stem: Leaf attachment: alternate Leaf type: compound Leaf type: palmate

[photo of leaves] Leaves are palmately compound in groups of 3 to 5 (usually 3), with little or no stalk. Leaflets are oblong to spatulate shaped, 1½ to 3 inches long, 1/3 to ¾ inch wide, toothless, hairy, tapered at the base and rounded or blunt at the tip. 2 lance-shaped stipules, pointed at the tip, are attached at the base of the leaf and appear to be 2 additional smaller leaflets. Stipules are up to 1½ inches long, becoming smaller as the leaves ascend the stem. Leaves turn a dusty green brown when dried. Stems are stout and densely branched with both stem and leaves covered in short velvety hairs. Older plants produce a dense cluster of stalks.

Fruit: Fruit type: capsule/pod

[photo of fruit] Pods are 1 to 2 inches long, oval to cylindrical, narrowing into the retained calyx and tapered to a sharp tip.

[photo of seed] Seed is a small creamy yellow brown bean about 1/8 inch long coated in a sticky resin, as can be seen in this photo.

Notes:

According to the DNR, Plains Wild Indigo has been on the state Special Concern list since 1984 due to loss of habitat primarily to agriculture. Not widely available in the trade, this is must have for every garden. A long lived perennial, the crown grows to enormous size with age, producing a bubbling fountain of rich cascading, creamy yellow plumes. Don't wait for the lagging industry on this one—it starts easily from seed and is a prolific producer of seed to be shared. This species has multiple varieties with var. glabrescens (formerly var. leucophaea) found in Minnesota.

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More photos

Photos courtesy Peter M. Dziuk taken in an Anoka county home landscape and Rice Creek elementary school wildflower planting.

Comments

Have you seen this plant in Minnesota, or have any other comments about it?

Posted by: Patrick - Lake Elmo, Washington County
on: 2016-06-14 11:02:44

I have a dozen or so plants blooming in a 2 acre restoration.

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