Baptisia caerulea Eaton & Wright
Baptisia confusa G.Don
Baptisia exaltata Sweet
Baptisia minor Lehm.
Baptisia texana Buckley
Baptisia versicolor Lodd.
Baptisia vespertina Rydb.
Podalyria australis (L.) Willd.
Podalyria coerulea (Trew) Michx.
Ripasia caerulea (Trew) Raf.
Sophora australis L.
Sophora caerulea Trew
Common Name: Wild Indigo
Cultivated plant in The University of Helsinki Botanical Garden in Kaisaniemi
Photograph by: Anneli Salo
Baptisia australis is a herbaceous, perennial plant forming a slowly expanding clump with erect stems; it can grow 90 - 120cm tall[
The plant is harvested from the wild for local use as a medicine and a dye. The inflated seed pods are up to 6cm long. They turn charcoal black when ripe and have considerable ornamental interest. Stems with seed pods are valued additions to dried flower arrangements[
Most, if not all, of the various species of Baptisia contain the toxic compounds baptisin and cytisine. The toxicity is fairly low, but eating the plants can cause nausea, vomiting and diarrhoea[
Eastern and Central N. America - ebraska to New Hampshire, south to Texas and Georgia
Rich woods and alluvial thickets, often on river banks[
|Other Uses Rating||
|Cultivation Status||Ornamental, Wild
Plants are hardy to about -20°c[
Prefers a deep, well-drained neutral to slightly acid soil in full sun[
]. Grows freely in a loamy soil[
]. Succeeds in a hot dry position. Succeeds in a rich moist soil in sun or light shade[
]. Tolerant of poor soils[
]. Established plants are drought tolerant[
A very ornamental species, but it can be somewhat shy flowering outside its native range[
Plants can be grown from seed, but they take several years to establish and commence flowering[
Plants have a very deep root system and dislike root disturbance, they should be left alone once they are established[
This species has a symbiotic relationship with certain soil bacteria, these bacteria form nodules on the roots and fix atmospheric nitrogen. Some of this nitrogen is utilized by the growing plant but some can also be used by other plants growing nearby[
The root is antiemetic, emetic and purgative[
]. There are confusing reports from two sources that the plant is used as an emetic and also that a cold tea is given to stop vomiting[
]. A poultice of the root is anti-inflammatory and is held in the mouth to treat toothaches[
The plant is under investigation as a potential stimulant of the immune system[
A blue dye is obtained from the plant[
]. It has been used as a somewhat inferior substitute for true indigo[
]. No more information is given, but it is likely to be the leaves that are used[
The inflated seed pods are up to 6cm long. They turn charcoal black when ripe and have considerable ornamental interest. The seeds rattle around in these blackened pods and were once popularly used by children as rattles[
Seed - best sown as soon as it is ripe in a cold frame[
]. Stored seed should be pre-soaked for 24 hours in warm water and then sown in a cold frame in late winter or early spring. Prick out the seedlings into individual pots as soon as they are large enough to handle and plant them out into their permanent positions in the summer or following spring.
Division in spring[
]. Larger divisions can be planted straight into their permanent positions whilst smaller clumps are best potted up and kept in a cold frame until they are growing away well.