Other common names for this plant are Blue False Indigo, Wild Indigo, Baptisia, Rattlepod, and Rattlebush. As you learn more about the plant, it is easy to see why the early European settlers name it “False Indigo or Wild Blue Indigo (In the 1700 and 1800’s the imported Indigo was highly prized by the Europeans).
This native plant is sometimes difficult to find in the nursery trade because the white and yellow baptisia is more common but it is definitely worth your time searching for it.
The Blue Wild Baptisia is popular outside of its native range because it is very adaptable requiring no fertilizing, pest resistent, and does not require pruning (that’s a prize winning plant in my books). It is a native perennial with deep roots and spread best by rhizomes or roots. Since it is a legume it adds nitrogen to the soil. It normally grows to 3 feet tall and 2 feet wide. The flowers bud out from a long stem and they are about 1 inch in length. They range in color from light blue to a deep purple and blooms in May and June.
While the plant is growing, if a leaf is crushed or a stem is broken, the sap turns a slate blue color when it is exposed to air.
Now that we are familar with Blue Wild Indigo lets talk about how the Cherokee used this plant. They would make a cold infusion and drink it to treat vomiting. They would also make a poultice to treat inflamation. A warm infusion made from the roots was held against a tooth to treat a toothache. The plant was also used to make a blue dye.
Cherokee children would use the dried pods with the loose seeds inside as rattles. Remember that one of its common name was rattlebush or rattlepod.
In its native habitat Blue Wild Indigo can be found along the tree line and in open areas. It can tolerate a little shade but it will need sun to produce flowers and seeds. It is a wonderful addition to any garden perennial bed. and since it grows to about three feet in height, I would put it behind some of your shorter perennials.