Baptisia alba (L.) Vent.
White wild indigo, White baptisia
Fabaceae (Pea Family)
USDA Symbol: BAAL
This 2-4 ft., mound-shaped perennial holds its white, pea-like flowers in erect clusters. Velvety, trifoliate leaves turn from bluish-gray to black in the fall. A bushy perennial with smooth leaves and white or cream-colored pea flowers in stiffly erect clusters; stem covered with whitish bloom. Clusters of large, black seedpods often remain attached to the naked winter stems.
This showy legume, long known as B. leucantha but now as B. alba, often stands out above surrounding prairie grasses. Many species of this genus contain a blue dye that resembles indigo and becomes noticeable in autumn as the plants dry out and blacken. Large-bracted Wild Indigo (B. bracteata var. leucophaea) has two large stipules at the base of 3-parted leaves, giving the effect of five leaflets rather than three.
From the Image Gallery
Plant CharacteristicsDuration: Perennial
Leaf Arrangement: Alternate
Leaf Complexity: Trifoliate
Size Notes: Normally 2 to 3 feet tall, but can reach 6 feet
Leaf: bright green to pale blue, black in fall
Flower: Flowers 1 inch in 6 to 9 inch spikes
Fruit: Green or black up to 1 inch
Size Class: 1-3 ft. , 3-6 ft.
Bloom InformationBloom Color: White
Bloom Time: Apr , May , Jun , Jul
Bloom Notes: Blooms earlier in southern parts of its range, later the farther north you go.
DistributionUSA: AL , AR , FL , GA , IA , IL , IN , KS , KY , LA , MD , MI , MN , MO , MS , NC , NE , NY , OH , OK , SC , TN , TX , VA , WI
Native Distribution: VA, OH, MI, MN & s.e. NE, s. to w. FL & e.TX
Native Habitat: Prairies; open woods; ravines
Growing ConditionsWater Use: Medium
Light Requirement: Sun
Soil Moisture: Dry , Moist
Soil pH: Acidic (pH<6.8)
Heat Tolerant: yes
Soil Description: Rocky or sandy, acid soils. Tolerates clay.
Conditions Comments: Tolerates seasonal flooding
BenefitUse Ornamental: Used in gardens and grasslands.
Warning: This plant has been fatal to cows and can be irritating to humans if ingested. Sensitivity to a toxin varies with a personís age, weight, physical condition, and individual susceptibility. Children are most vulnerable because of their curiosity and small size. Toxicity can vary in a plant according to season, the plantís different parts, and its stage of growth; and plants can absorb toxic substances, such as herbicides, pesticides, and pollutants from the water, air, and soil.
Conspicuous Flowers: yes
Interesting Foliage: yes
Value to Beneficial InsectsSpecial Value to Native Bees
Special Value to Bumble Bees
This information was provided by the Pollinator Program at The Xerces Society for Invertebrate Conservation.
PropagationPropagation Material: Root Division , Seeds
Description: Sow unstratified seed in fall or stratified seed in spring. Plant 1/2 deep. Plants germinate quickly but do not flower for up to 3 years. The tough rootstock can be divided in the fall. The roots are deep, so dig deeply to avoid breakage. Cuttings can also be taken.
Seed Collection: About six weeks past flowering, the pods should be black and beginning to open. Collect at this time comb the seeds from the pod. Mature, viable seeds will be brownish, hard and rounded. Store in sealed, refrigerated containers.
Seed Treatment: Scarification (one source says to pour 135 degree water over seeds and let cool overnight), inoculation, and moist stratification for 10 days.
Commercially Avail: yes
Find Seed or Plants
Find seed sources for this species at the Native Seed Network.
View propagation protocol from Native Plants Network.
National Wetland Indicator Status
From the National Suppliers DirectoryAccording to the inventory provided by Associate Suppliers, this plant is available at the following locations:
Edge of the Woods Native Plant Nursery - Orefield, PA
American Native Nursery - Quakertown, PA
Prairie Nursery - Westfield, WI
From the National Organizations DirectoryAccording to the species list provided by Affiliate Organizations, this plant is on display at the following locations:
Native Seed Network - Corvallis, OR
Mt. Cuba Center - Hockessin, DE
BibliographyBibref 1620 - Gardening with Native Plants of the South (Reprint Edition) (2009) Wasowski, S. with A. Wasowski
* The Midwestern Native Garden: Native Alternatives to Nonnative Flowers and Plants An Illustrated Guide (2011) Adelman, Charlotte and Schwartz, Bernard L.
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Additional resourcesUSDA: Find Baptisia alba in USDA Plants
FNA: Find Baptisia alba in the Flora of North America (if available)
Google: Search Google for Baptisia alba
MetadataRecord Modified: 2014-07-29
Research By: TWC Staff