Baptisia bracteata (Plains Wild Indigo)
|Also known as:||Cream Wild Indigo, Cream False Indigo, Long-bract Wild Indigo|
|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):|
|National distribution (click map to enlarge):|
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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:
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.
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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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?