Baptisia bracteata var. leucophaea

Species Native to Missouri
Common Name: false indigo 
Type: Herbaceous perennial
Family: Fabaceae
Native Range: Central United States
Zone: 5 to 9
Height: 1.00 to 2.00 feet
Spread: 2.00 to 3.00 feet
Bloom Time: May to June
Bloom Description: Creamy white to pale yellow
Sun: Full sun
Water: Dry to medium
Maintenance: Low
Flower: Showy, Good Dried
Attracts: Butterflies
Fruit: Showy
Tolerate: Drought, Dry Soil

Culture

Best grown in evenly moist to dry, loose, well-draining, sandy loams in full sun. Tolerant of drought and hot, dry conditions once established. The long taproot of this species makes it difficult to transplant. Can be propagated from seed but may take 2-3 years to flower. Hardy in Zones 5-9.

Noteworthy Characteristics

Baptisia bracteata var. leucophaea is a herbaceous perennial native to prairies, savannas, glades, and other open areas in the central United States. Mature specimens have a sprawling, multi-branched, bushy habit and can reach up to 2' tall with a 3' spread. The compound leaves are made up of three, grey-green, oblanceolate leaflets. The stems and leaves are covered in fine hairs. In mid to late spring, loose racemes of creamy white to pale yellow flowers (around 1" wide) bloom on the terminal ends of the stems. The flowering racemes (up to 9" long) are typically held horizontally, with the individual flowers facing upwards. The round seedpods mature from green to black and persist on the plant as it dries and goes dormant. The dried seed pods can be used in floral arrangements. The flowers offer an important early nectar source for native bees emerging from hibernation. The leaves are also a larval food source for multiple species of native butterflies and moths.

The genus name Baptisia comes from the Greek word bapto meaning "to dye".

The specific epithet bracteata means "with bracts", in reference to the prominent bracts held at the base of the pedicels (individual flower stems). The infraspecific epithet leucophaea means "white", possibly in reference to the lighter color of the foliage due to the hairiness of the leaflets.

The common name false indigo refers to the use of certain baptisias by early American colonists as substitutes, albeit inferior ones, for true indigo (genus Indigofera) in making blue dyes.

Problems

No major pest or disease problems of note.

Uses

Borders, cottage gardens, prairies, meadows, rock gardens, and native plant gardens. Effective in naturalized settings. Best as a specimen or in small groups.