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Baptisia australis

This plant has poison characteristics. See below.
Common Name(s):
Blue false indigo, Blue wild indigo, False indigo
Herbs, Native Plants, Perennials, Poisonous Plants, Wildflowers

Blue false indigo is a Baptisia australis, commonly called blue false indigo, is an upright perennial which typically grows 3-4' tall and occurs in rich woods, thickets and along streambanks from Pennsylvania south to North Carolina and Tennessee.   

Flowers give way to inflated seed pods (to 2.5" long) which turn charcoal black when ripe and have considerable ornamental interest. Seeds rattle around in the blackened pods which were once popularly used by children as rattles. Stems with seed pods are valued additions to dried flower arrangements.

The beautiful blue flowers have been used to make a blue dye comparable to the dye made from the flowers of indigo.

It grows best in full sun to part shade but tends to get a little floppy when it doesn’t get a minimum of six hours of direct sunlight. It forms tall clumps which are especially attractive planted next to wooden fences. The bright, indigo blue flowers are attractive when combined with yellow or white flowering perennials.

The best way to propagate this plant is to collect seeds in late summer as soon as they mature and sow them directly where you want them to grow. Cuttings taken in April or May will also root fairly easily if they are taken while the growth is still soft.  

B. tinctoria, a yellow-flowered species of Baptisia, is also native to the eastern USA and grows well in warm, sunny gardens.

Regions:  Mountain, Piedmont

Seasons of Interest: 

  Blooms: Spring             Nut/Fruit/Seed:  Late summer

Wildlife Value:  This plant is highly resistant to damage from deer.  It is a host plant for the Wild Indigo Duskywing butterfly.  Its flowers are attractive to butterflies and other insects.  

Insects, Diseases, or Other Plant Problems: Taller plants may need support, particularly when grown in part shade locations.



Perennial herb with alternate, 3-parted leaves, turning black upon drying; flowers either on long-stalked clusters above the leaves or axillary; white, blue, or yellow; irregular and pea-shaped; fruit an inflated, stalked pod with several seeds Wildlife Value: Larval host plant for a variety of butterflies including: Orange sulphur, Clouded sulphur, Frosted elfin, Eastern tailed blue, Hoary edge, and Wild indigo duskywing
36-48 in.
Flower Color:
USDA Hardiness Zone 3-9
The Wild Blue Indigo features a mound of clover-like, trifoliate, bluish-green leaves (leaflets to 2" long). The alternate leaves have a smooth margin.
Wild Blue Indigo features purple/blue, lupine-like .75-in. flowers in erect racemes (to 12") atop flower spikes extending well above a foliage.
Wild Blue Indigo is easily grown in average, dry to medium, well-drained soil in full sun to part shade. However, it does best in full sun. It will tolerate drought and poor soils. Over time, plants develop slowly expanding clumps with deep and extensive root systems, and should not be disturbed once established. They may be grown from seed but takes several years to yellow-flowered. Plants take on more of a shrubby appearance and tend to open up after bloom. Trimming or shearing foliage after bloom helps maintain rounded plant appearance and obviates a possible need for staking, but eliminates the developing seed pods which are so attractive.
Seed sown when fresh in mid-summer
Full sun, partial shade
Mountains, Piedmont, Coastal Plain
Eastern United States
Poison Part:
All parts
Poison Delivery Mode:
Nausea, vomiting, diarrhea
Toxic Principle:
Baptisin and cytisine
Found in:
Forest or natural areas in woodland borders and open woods; landscape in flower gardens as native, herbaceous perennials
Life Cycle:
sun, pollinators, blue, highly beneficial coastal plants, native, purple, herb, wildflower, perennial, butterflies, partial shade, spring, deer resistant, showy

NCCES plant id: 686

Baptisia australis Baptisia australis
Will Law, CC BY-NC-SA - 2.0
Baptisia australis Baptisia australis
Anne McCormack, CC BY-NC-2.0
Baptisia australis Baptisia australis
Fritz Flohr Reynolds, CC-BY-SA-2.0
Baptisia australis Baptisia australis
Suzanne Caldwell, CC BY-NC-2.0
Baptisia australis Baptisia australis
Wally Gobetz, CC BY-NC-ND - 2.0
Baptisia australis Baptisia australis
F. D. Richards, CC-BY-SA-2.0
Baptisia australis Baptisia australis
John Brandaur, CC BY-NC-ND - 2.0