Portraits of Wildflowers

Perspectives on Nature Photography

White false indigo

with 26 comments


From Garden in the Woods in Framingham, Massachusetts, on June 12th, here’s white false indigo, Baptisia alba, seen in a reference photo (above) and in a more aesthetically satisfying portrait (below). Thanks to horiculturist Anna Fialkoff for identifying many of the plants I photographed there on June 12th.

Turns out I’d taken pictures of this species two years earlier in Illinois. Last year I portrayed a more-colorful species of Baptisia in Kansas.

© 2018 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

July 29, 2018 at 4:38 AM

26 Responses

Subscribe to comments with RSS.

  1. A very satisfying portrait. The texture of the flower looks like a satiny magnolia although it is probably more like a sweet pea in reality.


    July 29, 2018 at 5:40 AM

    • Truth to tell, I don’t remember ever touching one of these flowers in Illinois or Massachusetts, so I’m sorry I can’t tell you about the texture. Because the plant is a legume, you’re probably right that the texture is more like a sweet pea.

      Steve Schwartzman

      July 29, 2018 at 6:01 AM

      • I’d say the petals are a little stiffer than the sweet pea’s, though not as thick and rigid as those of our Southern magnolia (Magnolia grandiflora). On the other hand, the pretty pink blossoms of the deciduous magnolias I saw listed for New Zealand might be similar in texture, if they’re the same as what we call tulip trees.

        Coincidentally, I spent some time tromping through waist-high grass at Missouri’s Burr Oak Woods in June to get photos of both the white and blue false indigos that still were in bloom. I never can resist touching what’s around me — sometimes to my chagrin — but I did find that both of these feel much like two Texas Baptisia species: B. sphaerocarpa and B. bracteata. I also found out why the Missouri equivalent to “watch for snakes” is “watch for ticks.”


        July 29, 2018 at 8:59 AM

  2. Framingham forms the patriarchal nucleus of my wife’s family. More specifically, Holliston, to the south. After years of talk for Framingham-This-And-Framingham-That, you’d think that mention of Garden in the Woods might have been made. Especially since Botany was the academic discipline of both my father-in-law and his daughter (my wife)! This trip surely took you a long way from home – did your eastward travels take you to the south … or north?

    Pairodox Farm

    July 29, 2018 at 7:14 AM

    • It’s never too late. Now that you’ve heard about Garden in the Woods, you can visit it. How I knew about the place and why I was there, you can find out in a post from a month ago:


      The visit to Framingham came as part of a combination trip that included visits to family (New York) and friends (Stratham, NH; Halifax, NS; Poughkeepsie, NY), along with visits to some photogenic places, primarily in Maine, New Brunswick, and Nova Scotia. I decided to drive, which had the downside of using up three days each way between Austin and New York. Flying to Boston and renting a car might have been better.

      Steve Schwartzman

      July 29, 2018 at 7:44 AM

  3. Honestly, I think both photos are pleasing. I do prefer the second, but the first gives a nice indication of the gracefulness of the plant’s branches.

    I pondered the end of that branch for a while, and finally decided it’s been clipped. In the middle of the Burr Oak prairie, the stems were quite tall, and budded to the very end. They were so tall that I had a hard time getting an entire branch into the frame. Perhaps the fact that you were in a garden explains the clipping. If the growth habit’s the same there as on the prairie, I can understand why they’d want to keep it under control.


    July 29, 2018 at 9:13 AM

    • That’s why I referred to the first one as a “reference photo.” It shows how the plant grows, and I figured that might help identify it. In retrospect, I think my informant (Anna Fialkoff) would’ve know right away from the close-up alone.

      You’re always good at noticing little details. I hadn’t paid any attention to the tip of the branch. A lot of clipping must go on at Garden in the Woods to keep the place looking tidy and prevent paths from getting overgrown. What you say about this species getting so tall in Missouri is good evidence.

      Steve Schwartzman

      July 29, 2018 at 9:42 AM

  4. What a lovely portrait – such silky looking petals. I am going to try and grow the Baptisia Australis in my ‘blue bed’ as I love the colour, but this white is rather handsome too.


    July 29, 2018 at 12:32 PM

    • There’s always something about the purity of white, isn’t there? Physics tells us that white is a mixture of all the visible colors.

      Steve Schwartzman

      July 29, 2018 at 12:45 PM

  5. I am in Epping NH I have the gorgeous Blue now you have me seeking White 🙂


    July 29, 2018 at 9:16 PM

    • I spent two days with friends in Stratham. Garden in the Woods is about 70 miles from you, so that’s a place where you can find the white false indigo. I don’t know if it’s still flowering but you can call to find out.

      Steve Schwartzman

      July 29, 2018 at 9:34 PM

  6. You know, even though white is my favorite color, and even though these are pretty in white, there are some flowers that just look better in a particular color. It seems to me that false indigo should have a real indigo color.


    July 30, 2018 at 9:21 AM

    • When I started learning a little about native plants two decades ago, one of my early observations was that species with flowers in the purple range often have natural white variants.

      As for what we humans like, the Romans had a saying: De gustibus non est disputandum, meaning There’s no arguing over tastes. French has a similar adage: Chacun à son goût, or Each to his own taste.

      Steve Schwartzman

      July 30, 2018 at 9:37 AM

      • That is odd about blue flowers and their variants, but it is so accurate. I remember learning about what colors leaves ‘see’ in the sense that they use certain color for photosynthesis more than others. Leaves appear to be green because they have no use for green light, so reflects it back. Some animals see some light but not others. Some insects see infrared, while others see ultraviolet. Anyway, I sort of wonder who sees blue flowers? I mean, I get it that their white variants have patterns and color in infrared or ultraviolet of both; and that the original blue flowers do as well, but does blue actually appeal to particular pollinators?


        July 30, 2018 at 9:15 PM

        • Ah, but my observation was about white variants of purple (or indigo or violet) flowers. I’m not aware of a tendency for flowers that I see as blue to have white variants. You raise an interesting question about how the original differs from the white variant when looked at with infrared or ultraviolet light.

          Steve Schwartzman

          July 30, 2018 at 10:35 PM

          • I would guess that the infrared or ultraviolet light is pretty similar for both the blue and the white of each type. I am just curious about ‘who’ sees blue. It seems to be an expendable color if the flowers give it up so easily.


            July 30, 2018 at 11:32 PM

  7. Soooo, you were in the neighborhood, eh? GITW is an outstanding resource. I get my native woodland plants from their local location at Nasami Farm.

    Steve Gingold

    August 1, 2018 at 4:00 AM

    • Well, at least the extended neighborhood. At


      you’ll find an explanation of why I went to the Woods and what I did there (sounds like Thoreau, doesn’t it?). The brief round of photo-taking came on a follow-up visit.

      Maybe on a future visit you and David and I can all go photographing together.

      Steve Schwartzman

      August 1, 2018 at 6:34 AM

      • Wonderful that you were able to fulfill her request and that the Garden was open to spreading her ashes.

        Steve Gingold

        August 1, 2018 at 6:54 PM

        • Yes, I’m pleased it all worked out so well. Once there, I learned that my friend wasn’t the only person whose ashes the Garden in the Woods has hosted over the years.

          Steve Schwartzman

          August 1, 2018 at 6:57 PM

  8. Beautiful! There is something about white flowers Steve .. so restful, elegant


    August 2, 2018 at 2:00 PM

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: