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Native plant of the month: Baptisia alba (white false indigo)


Baptisia alba is a showy white flowered legume growing 2-4 ft. tall by 2 ft wide. It is a mound-shaped bushy perennial with smooth leaves trifoliate leaves that turn from bluish-gray to black in the fall. The white or cream-colored pea-like flowers are borne on long stems in stiffly erect clusters April - July. The clusters of large, green seedpods turn black as they ripen yet often remain attached to the naked winter stems. Baptisia is found in coastal prairies and stand out in a grassy field dominated by big and little bluestem, switchgrass and Indian grass. They prefer full sun but are tolerant of some shade. As with most prairie soils, they tolerant long periods of wet and dry conditions, sending dense roots deep into the soil. Plant them where you want them the first time as they are hard to transplant! I plant them with Indian grass, white mountain mint, Liatris and aster species, and slender rosinweed for variation in texture and color as well as flowers throughout the year. Collect the seed pods 1 - 1 1/2 months after flowering (April-August), when they turn black. common name "wild-indigo" comes from the fact that an indigo-like dye can be produced when the plants are steeped in water and allowed to ferment.

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