Baptisia bracteata (Plains Wild Indigo)

Plant Info
Also known as: Cream Wild Indigo, Cream False Indigo, Long-bract Wild Indigo
Family:Fabaceae (Pea)
Life cycle:perennial
  • 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.


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.


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.

Posted by: Kenny h - Shooting Star Trail
on: 2019-06-02 08:31:56

I love viewing this is much more sprawling/ spreading...less height than its white cousin that will bloom in a couple of weeks.

Posted by: Rachel - Bloomington
on: 2020-05-18 23:37:18

Anyone know where to get seeds for this? I checked out Prairie Restorations but they don't carry this particular species.

Posted by: Sue - Park Rapids
on: 2021-03-14 21:01:17

Rachel, I believe I have this plant. I got it at Hafners in Park Rapids.

Posted by: K. Chayka
on: 2021-03-15 06:58:59

Sue, I would recommend purchasing native plants from a reputable native plant vendor. Hafners is not in that category and more than likely treats their plants with harmful pesticides. Rachel, Prairie Resto may not carry this species, but other native plant nurseries do, including Morning Sky Greenery, Prairie Moon, Landscape Alternatives and probably others - shop around. See also map of native plant purveyors.

Posted by: Kara - Hutchinson
on: 2023-10-23 06:19:28

Saw it in the prairie of New Story Farm

Posted by: Brooke - Ashland Township | Dodge Center
on: 2024-05-01 10:51:34

Does this plant spread on it's own? Can it be planted where reed canary grass is infiltrating, and survive? I have 5 acres that I'd love to scatter some of these and watch them take off on their own, but only if they are naturally good for it.

Posted by: K Chayka
on: 2024-05-01 17:25:27

Brooke, this species can't really compete with reed canary grass. Few things can. You might check with your county Soil and Water Conservation District, or local watershed agency, who might give advice and/or assistance in dealing with RCG.

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