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Amorpha fruticosa (Indigo bush)
Cox, Paul

Amorpha fruticosa

Amorpha fruticosa L.

Indigo Bush, False Indigo Bush, False Indigo, Desert False Indigo

Fabaceae (Pea Family)

Synonym(s): Amorpha angustifolia, Amorpha bushii, Amorpha croceolanata, Amorpha curtissii, Amorpha dewinkeleri, Amorpha fruticosa var. angustifolia, Amorpha fruticosa var. croceolanata, Amorpha fruticosa var. emarginata, Amorpha fruticosa var. oblongifolia, Amorpha fruticosa var. occidentalis, Amorpha fruticosa var. tennesseensis, Amorpha occidentalis, Amorpha occidentalis var. arizonica, Amorpha occidentalis var. emarginata, Amorpha tennesseensis, Amorpha virgata

USDA Symbol: amfr

USDA Native Status: L48 (N), CAN (N)

False indigo-bush is a 6-12 ft., loose, airy shrub which often forms dense thickets. Plants develop a leggy character with the majority of their pinnately compound, fine-textured foliage on the upper third of the plant. Leaflets velvety on the lower surface, margins frequently almost parallel, often abruptly rounded at both ends and with a notch at the tip. Flowers small, purple to dark blue with yellow stamens extending beyond the single petal, crowded in narrow, 3-6 in., spikelike clusters at or near the ends of the branchlets, appearing from April to June. Fruit small, up to 3/8 inch long and with blisterlike glands visible under a 10x hand lens. This is a deciduous plant.

This shrub, which often forms thickets on riverbanks and islands, can be weedy or invasive in the northeast. Another False Indigo (A. herbacea) has whitish to blue-violet flowers in fan-like masses on top of the plant and gray-downy foliage with up to 40 leaflets. The genus name, from the Greek amorphos (formless or deformed), alludes to the fact that the flower, with only a single petal (the banner or standard), is unlike the typical pea flowers of the family.


From the Image Gallery

22 photo(s) available in the Image Gallery

Plant Characteristics

Duration: Perennial
Habit: Shrub
Leaf Retention: Deciduous
Leaf Arrangement: Alternate
Leaf Complexity: Pinnate
Leaf Pubescence: Glabrous
Leaf Margin: Entire
Leaf Apex: Mucronate
Breeding System: Flowers Bisexual
Fruit Type: Legume
Size Notes: Up to about 12 feet tall.
Leaf: Green
Autumn Foliage: yes

Bloom Information

Bloom Color: Orange , Blue , Purple , Violet
Bloom Time: Apr , May , Jun
Bloom Notes: Corolla deep violet-purple, anthers orange, style purplish.


USA: AL , AR , AZ , CA , CO , CT , DC , DE , FL , GA , IA , ID , IL , IN , KS , KY , LA , MA , MD , ME , MI , MN , MO , MS , NC , ND , NE , NH , NJ , NM , NY , OH , OK , OR , PA , RI , SC , SD , TN , TX , UT , VA , VT , WA , WI , WV , WY
Canada: MB , ON
Native Distribution: NJ to s.e. WI, MN, Sask. & WY, s. to FL, TX & n. Mex.,S. CA to NM & adjacent Mex.
Native Habitat: Stream & pond edges; gravel bars, open woods; roadsides, canyons.

Growing Conditions

Water Use: Low
Light Requirement: Sun , Part Shade
Soil Moisture: Moist
CaCO3 Tolerance: Medium
Aquatic: yes
Cold Tolerant: yes
Soil Description: Moist soils to dry sands. pH adaptable. Sandy, Sandy Loam, Medium Loam, Clay Loam, Clay, Acid-based, Calcareous.


Use Ornamental: Fast growing, Attractive, Blooms ornamental, Bog or pond area, Water garden
Use Wildlife: Nectar-bees, Nectar-butterflies, Nectar-insects, Browse.
Conspicuous Flowers: yes
Fragrant Flowers: yes
Fragrant Foliage: yes
Attracts: Butterflies
Larval Host: California & southern dogfaces, Silver-spotted Skipper (Epargyreus clarus), Gray hairstreak, Hoary edge skipper.
Deer Resistant: High

Value to Beneficial Insects

Special Value to Native Bees

This information was provided by the Pollinator Program at The Xerces Society for Invertebrate Conservation.

Butterflies and Moths of North America (BAMONA)

Silver-spotted Skipper
(Epargyreus clarus)

Larval Host
Learn more at BAMONA
Southern Dogface
(Zerene cesonia)

Larval Host
Learn more at BAMONA
California Dogface
(Zerene eurydice)

Larval Host
Learn more at BAMONA
Gray Hairstreak
(Strymon melinus)

Larval Host
Learn more at BAMONA
Hoary Edge
(Achalarus lyciades)

Larval Host
Learn more at BAMONA


Description: Propagation is possible by scarified seed and softwood or hardwood cuttings.
Seed Collection: Collect in late summer or early fall when the pod turns yellowish brown and begins to dry. Air dry and store in sealed, refrigerated containers for three to five years.
Seed Treatment: Mechanically nick the seed, soak in hot water for 10 minutes, or scarify in concentrated sulfuric acid five to eight minutes.
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.

Mr. Smarty Plants says

Variety of native tall plants for a screen in shady area near Ft. Worth
June 12, 2007
Hello, we live west of Ft Worth. We are looking for tall plants to form a visual screen along a chain link fence we share with a neighbor. We have post oaks there and it is very shady and the ground ...
view the full question and answer

National Wetland Indicator Status

This information is derived from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers National Wetland Plant List, Version 3.1 (Lichvar, R.W. 2013. The National Wetland Plant List: 2013 wetland ratings. Phytoneuron 2013-49: 1-241). Click here for map of regions.

From the National Organizations Directory

According to the species list provided by Affiliate Organizations, this plant is on display at the following locations:

Fredericksburg Nature Center - Fredericksburg, TX
Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center - Austin, TX
Texas Discovery Gardens - Dallas, TX
Brackenridge Field Laboratory - Austin, TX
Crosby Arboretum - Picayune, MS
Texas Parks and Wildlife Department - Austin, TX
NPSOT - Austin Chapter - Austin, TX
Native Seed Network - Corvallis, OR
Jacob's Well Natural Area - Wimberley, TX

Herbarium Specimen(s)

NPSOT 0651 Collected Jun 6, 1992 in Medina County by Harry Cliffe

1 specimen(s) available in the Digital Herbarium

Wildflower Center Seed Bank

LBJWC-TS-2 Collected 2009-07-02 in Travis County by Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center

1 collection(s) available in the Wildflower Center Seed Bank


Bibref 1186 - Field Guide to Moths of Eastern North America (2005) Covell, C.V., Jr.
Bibref 1185 - Field Guide to Western Butterflies (Peterson Field Guides) (1999) Opler, P.A. and A.B. Wright
Bibref 946 - Gardening with Prairie Plants: How to Create Beautiful Native Landscapes (2002) Wasowski, Sally
Bibref 355 - Landscaping with Native Plants of Texas and the Southwest (1991) Miller, G. O.
Bibref 354 - Native & Naturalized Woody Plants of Austin & the Hill Country (1981) Lynch, D.
Bibref 841 - Native Alternatives to Invasive Plants (2006) Burrell, C. C.
Bibref 318 - Native Texas Plants: Landscaping Region by Region (2002) Wasowski, S. & A. Wasowski
Bibref 291 - Texas Wildscapes: Gardening for Wildlife (1999) Damude, N. & K.C. Bender
Bibref 1294 - The Midwestern Native Garden: Native Alternatives to Nonnative Flowers and Plants An Illustrated Guide (2011) Adelman, Charlotte and Schwartz, Bernard L.
Bibref 286 - Wildflowers of the Texas Hill Country (1989) Enquist, M.

Search More Titles in Bibliography

Web Reference

Webref 23 - Southwest Environmental Information Network (2009) SEINet - Arizona Chapter

Research Literature

Reslit 868 - Are rare species less shade tolerant than common species in fire-prone environments? A test with seven Amorpha (Fabaceae) species (2009) R. M. Marchin, R. K. Bhandari, W. A. Wall, M. G. H...
Reslit 2725 - Amorfrutins are potent antidiabetic dietary natural products (2012) C. Weidner, J. C. De Groot, A. Prasad, A. Freiwald...
Reslit 2726 - Effects of NaCl stress on growth and physiological indexes of five greening plant seedlings and comprehensive evaluation of their salt tolerance (2011) X.-J. Wei, Y.-L. Yin, Z.-G. Lu, H.-B. Mo, J.-F. Hu...
Reslit 2727 - Dark Lance false indigo (1989) B. J. Simpson, B. W. Hipp, E. L. Mcwilliams
Reslit 2728 - The role of host seed size in mediating a latitudinal body size cline in an introduced bruchid beetle in Japan (2012) S. Sadakiyo, M. Ishihara
Reslit 2729 - Favorable fragmentation: river reservoirs can impede downstream expansion of riparian weeds (2010) S. B. Rood, J. H. Braatne, L. A. Goater
Reslit 2730 - Seeding rate affects establishment of native perennial legumes in the upper midwestern US (2006) J. A. Fischbach, N. J. Ehlke, P. R. Peterson, D. L...
Reslit 2731 - Priming and environmental influences on germination of two woody species (1993) G. L. David, D. L. Hensley, S. C. Wiest
Reslit 2732 - Shoot pruning of a hedgerow perennial legume alters the availability and temporal dynamics of root-derived nitrogen in a subtropical setting (2011) Y. Carrillo, C. F. Jordan, K. L. Jacobsen, K. G. M...
Reslit 2733 - Evaluation of diversity among North American accessions of false indigo (Amorpha fruticosa L.) for forage and biomass (2006) L. R. Dehaan, N. J. Ehlke, C. C. Sheaffer, D. L. W...

This information was provided by the Florida WIldflower Foundation.
Search More Titles in Research Literature

From the Archive

Wildflower Newsletter 1998 VOL. 15, NO.5 - Native Shrubs Providing Landscape Heritage and Habitat, Executive Director\'s Re...

Additional resources

USDA: Find Amorpha fruticosa in USDA Plants
FNA: Find Amorpha fruticosa in the Flora of North America (if available)
Google: Search Google for Amorpha fruticosa


Record Modified: 2022-10-13
Research By: NPC, MWJ

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