Portraits of Wildflowers

Perspectives on Nature Photography

White wild indigo

with 22 comments

Baptisia 8096

On June 14, Melissa took us to the Grant Woods Forest Preserve in Lake County, Illinois. Among the native flowers we saw there was Baptisia alba, known as white wild indigo. From the second photograph you can see that some of the wild indigo was mixed in with spiderworts (Tradescantia ohiensis).

Baptisia and Spiderworts 8182

© 2016 Steven Schwartzman


Written by Steve Schwartzman

July 24, 2016 at 4:56 AM

22 Responses

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  1. There is a skipper that feeds on that, a wild indigo duskywing.

    Sherry Felix

    July 24, 2016 at 5:32 AM

  2. Beautifully done Steve.

  3. Loving white flowers as I do, of course this one appeals. It’s a striking plant, and the background you’ve chosen for the first photo sets off the dusky gray color of the stem and receptacles perfectly.

    I found Baptisia bracteata at both Nash Prairie and the Brazoria refuge this year. It’s equally lovely, with cascades of creamy yellow flowers that suggest two names I’ve heard: false yellow indigo, or cream false indigo. (There also was false yellow indigo: Baptisia sphaerocarpa.) It’s interesting that the Wildflower Center description of creamy false indigo includes this: “The velvety leaves, held in groups of five, lose their green color by late summer and change to a dark gray or black.” That’s one of those subtle species similarities that could easily go unnoticed. I wonder if the stems of all the false indigos turn gray at some point.


    July 24, 2016 at 7:01 AM

    • How nice that you got baptized with your own species of Baptisia this year. In Austin I don’t seem to encounter plants in that genus, so I just looked at Bill Carr’s plant list for Travis County and found out why. He describes the Baptisia bracteata that you mentioned as being rare here. Of Baptisia sphaerocarpa he says: “Our single specimen record was apparently taken from an area of Pleistocene terrace deposits near the intersection of MoPac and W. 24th St., Austin. Small populations may be extant in open post oak woodlands on similar strata in the eastern half of the county.”

      You raise a good question about the stems of false indigos. Finding out is one more project you can add to your list.

      Steve Schwartzman

      July 24, 2016 at 7:18 AM

    • I hoped to also show Steve a B. bracteata at this site, but they were already done blooming. They are extremely rare in our area, and very lovely. And you’re right, I do see their stems go black at the end of the season. I’m a big fan of indigo…I wonder whether these plants would give blue?


      July 24, 2016 at 8:29 AM

  4. I love the idea of baptism by flower, Steve 🙂


    July 24, 2016 at 8:29 AM

    • You put it well: baptism by flower. I’d been meaning to look up the reason that botanists chose this genus name, and you’ve prompted me to do that. According to Shinners and Mahler’s Illustrated Flora of North Central Texas, the name was coined from Greek baptis, meaning ‘dye’ or ‘dip,’ “from the economic use of some species which yield a poor indigo dye.” The ‘dip’ sense of the Greek word is clear in baptism.

      Steve Schwartzman

      July 24, 2016 at 9:30 AM

  5. Good morning, Steve,
    What’s the connection between Wild Indigo and the colour blue, if there is any? I’ve alway associated blue with Indigo. Is that colur made from wild Indigo, or from a different plant?
    Have a wonderful Sunday,


    July 24, 2016 at 8:55 AM

  6. […] a comment on yesterday’s post about white wild indigo in Illinois, Sherry Fenix pointed out the connection to the wild indigo duskywing butterfly. That […]

  7. […] year I posted two pictures of Baptisia alba, white wild indigo, from our visit to […]

  8. […] out I’d taken pictures of this species two years earlier in Illinois. Last year I portrayed a more-colorful species of Baptisia in […]

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