Baptisia lactea (White Wild Indigo)

Plant Info
Also known as: White False Indigo, Large-leaf Wild Indigo
Family:Fabaceae (Pea)
Life cycle:perennial
  • State Special Concern
Habitat:sun; dry to average moisture, prairies, savannas, open woods
Bloom season:May - July
Plant height:2 to 4 feet
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] Loose spike-like racemes up to 18 inches long of pea-shaped flowers at the ends of branching stems. Flowers are ¾ to 1 inch long, white with a purple splotch at base of upper petal (standard); petals are positioned forward, the upper standard deeply lobed in the middle, folded up and back on the sides. The lateral wings below it are oval to oblong, tightly flanking a similar keel nearly obscured underneath, hiding several orange stamens. The calyx holding the flower is tubular, blueish green with a waxy sheen and short stalk.

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

[photo of leaves] Leaves are compound in groups of three, on a short stalk. Leaflets are 1 to 2 inches long, ½ to 1 inch wide, toothless, hairless, oblong, rounded at the tip, tapered at the base, and blacken with age. A pair of narrow, sharply pointed leaf-like appendages (stipules), as long as the leaf stalk or shorter, are attached at the leaf joint. Stems and branches are stout and ascending, smooth waxy bluish green, with multiple erect branches,

Fruit: Fruit type: capsule/pod

[photo of fruit] Fruit is a round cylindrical pod about ¾ inch long, with a spiked tip and on a long stalk, emerging from the calyx tube. The pods ripen from green to dark purplish black.


Both Wild White Indigo and Minnesota's other native wild indigo species, Plains Wild Indigo (Baptisia bracteata), are found in our SE counties and both are listed as state Special Concern species due to loss of habitat primarily to agriculture. Both are also showing up widely in native seed plantings and garden centers. Easy to grow from seed, both are must-haves and are durable perennials in the home lakescape making for showing specimen displays, B. lactea doing better in heavier soils and B. bracteata preferring sandier soil. B. lactea is more commonly known as Baptisia alba var. macrophylla, occasionally Baptisia leucantha, but B. lactea is the accepted name in Minnesota.

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More photos

Photos by K. Chayka taken at Battle Creek Regional Park, St Paul. Photos courtesy Peter M. Dziuk taken in an Anoka county home landscape and in Fillmore county.


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

Posted by: Eric - St. Cloud
on: 2011-07-28 08:19:00

I did a front yard prairie restoration of sorts. I have two of these plants growing within the native beds. Kind of fun to see.

Posted by: Linda - Thompson Lake County Park, West St Paul, Dakota County
on: 2012-06-14 17:55:27

This plant is blooming right now in Thompson Lake County Park in West St Paul. It's near the south end of the lake, where the paved lakeside walking path devolves to a mowed path that heads off to the east. There are several small patches of plants in bloom, and a number of small seedlings, so it appears the population is increasing in that spot. While there are still a lot of non-natives in this park, some effort has been made to preserve and introduce more native plants, especially in some of the shoreline stabilization/restoration done by Dan Isensee's group, Blue Thumb.

Posted by: Abrahm - Afton State Park
on: 2012-06-24 17:18:55

There are many of these blooming in the prairie restoration area currently (6/24/12) near the visitor center.

Posted by: Elizabeth - Fort Dodge, IOWA
on: 2012-08-13 23:02:02

I recently collected some of the pods from this flower for their seeds so I could plant them in my prairie restoration project I have in my yard. I am wondering should I scatter/plant the seeds this fall or wait until spring? Thanks so much,

Posted by: Robin - Northwood Park, New Hope
on: 2013-06-25 17:39:37

Blooming along the creek edges.

Posted by: Forster & Ina - Northfield
on: 2014-07-01 21:03:06

This plant grows freely on the St.Olaf prairie, the Lashbrook Park prairie, and the Spring Creek Soccer complex. We plan to add it to our yard soon.

Posted by: David - Zumbro Falls
on: 2014-07-09 04:43:20

I had a couple of plants on the property 4 years ago, and never mowed or burned that area. I now have at least 15 plants in a 1/4 acre area, and just love their long lasting blooms and delicate foliage. The seed pods seem to get scattered naturally, but perhaps some hand planting in the Fall would help. The plant seems to spring up in the same spot year after year. Dave

Posted by: Debbie - Mora
on: 2014-07-31 18:30:52

We restored 40 acres of native prairie on our farm, and we now have this growing in one of our fields.

Posted by: Kristin - Battle Creek Park, St. Paul
on: 2015-06-11 22:09:09

Saw these lovely plants on a high bluff above Lower Afton Rd. I see they are common in restorations -- is this a remnant?

Posted by: K. Chayka
on: 2015-06-12 05:41:33

Kristin, that should be a native remnant at Battle Creek park.

Posted by: Greg - Dodge Center
on: 2015-08-18 20:46:15

I walk my dog in the Triton High School Nature Preserve. Have noted several of these plants. Each late fall someone cuts them and turns them upside down. Guessing for natural propagation? How does one plant the seeds which I presume come from the blackened pods? Would like to start some at the lake. Any help? Thanks

Posted by: Louise B - Dakota County, MN
on: 2017-06-09 12:56:22

Two years ago my blue/purple Baptisia did not come up. I had purchased a yellow and a blue plant on a trip with my master gardener group a number of years ago. I tried growing seeds from pods with no success. I loved these plants and was so happy to see the post regarding the plants around Thompson Lake Park in West St. Paul since I live very near there. The post is 5 years old but I hope there is a wave of blue Baptisia near the lake--maybe I can get a replacement.

Posted by: Gary Reitan - John Murtaugh WMA-Goodhue County
on: 2018-07-29 11:14:21

First time I've seen this plant. 7-28-2018

Posted by: Jeremy Lubich - Woodbury
on: 2019-06-14 11:58:14

There are thousands of these growing and blooming right now at the Woodbury off-leash dog park on a 40 acre wild grass section. Most are white but there are some purple/blueish ones mixed in as well. Just a beautiful area to walk and enjoy the wildlife. Andy's Bark Park, Woodbury, MN

Posted by: Jack Kochie - Shoreview
on: 2019-06-24 16:16:57

Blooming now (June 24) on Keller Golf Course. In nature area between the 14th and 16th holes.

Posted by: Susan premo - A park near stewartville, mn.
on: 2019-07-13 18:29:32

Up above the north branch of the root river. Quite a few of these are blooming right now.

Posted by: Olga Zenteno - Stearns County
on: 2019-07-21 23:19:24

Saw this plant growing in a ditch today in South St Cloud. I haven't seen this before - it's lovely !!

Posted by: Olga Zenteno - St Cloud Stearns County
on: 2019-08-22 16:06:43

I saw this plant growing in a ditch on Cooper Ave in St Cloud between 36th and 37th St S a few weeks ago. It is the first time I have seen this plant growing uncultivated. It was beautiful! I have pictures!! Stearns County should be listed as a place where this plant can be found.

Posted by: Carolyn Carson - William O'Brien State Park
on: 2020-06-20 22:34:08

6/20/2020 Many throughout open fields. Wm. O'Brien State Park Wedge Hill Savanna Trail.Elongated flowers on single stem. Dramatic long lower branches.Overall a very tall striking plant.

Posted by: Mark Hansell - Northfield
on: 2020-06-25 12:01:22

They are blooming in huge numbers on the restored prairie in the Carleton College Arboretum, just west of Highway 19. They seem to do best in the sections that were most recently burned.

Posted by: Judy Kereakos - Rochester
on: 2020-07-01 15:46:50

There are a few of these plants near the local Honkers baseball team field, along the bike trail which runs near the Zumbro River. I've never seen them there before.

Posted by: Annie Shao - Tamarack Nature Center
on: 2020-09-22 10:35:00

Saw seed pods of this plant near Tamarack Lake at Tamarack Nature Center.

Posted by: Mary Kay S. - Scott County
on: 2021-06-02 20:48:26

Saw them while while hiking in a park.

Posted by: Alice De Dominicis - Lebanon Hill Park
on: 2021-06-06 15:33:49

These are blooming in Lebanon Hills Regional Park in Eagan, MN. I only saw a few scattered. They are beautiful.

Posted by: Brett W - Sherburne County
on: 2023-06-10 19:40:53

Saw blooming today in SNWR. Have been to this area a few times over the years and haven't came across it before. Seeded from somewhere probably but happy to see something new.

Posted by: Mary - Afton State Park
on: 2023-06-11 15:49:26

Saw lots of this blooming at Afton State Park today (June 11th) around their prairie loop

Posted by: Geri Black - Fillmore County
on: 2023-07-09 19:53:42

Spotted on a minimum maintenance road across from my house.

Posted by: Jon - Lake County
on: 2023-07-30 22:18:31

County Road 101, near Larsmont Cottages, between the road and the railroad tracks about 1000 feet from Lake Superior. One or two plants in one location. I don't see any others on that five mile stretch of road between the Scenic Highway and where it dead-ends near Two Harbors.

Posted by: K Chayka
on: 2023-07-31 07:47:58

Jon, Lake County is pretty far outside of white indigo's natural range. It was likely either planted there or it's something else.

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