For to the bee a flower is a fountain of life
And to the flower a bee is a messenger of love
And to both, bee and flower,
the giving and the receiving is a need and an ecstasy.
A hardy perennial that acts more like a bush, Baptisia australis, is a must in my spring garden. Baptisia, also know as false indigo or wild blue indigo is from the Fabaceae (Pea Family) and resembles a lupine in flower. I am linking in with Diana’s Dozen meme@Elephant’s Eye, Gail@Clay and Limestone’s Wildflower Wednesday and Christina@Creating My Own Garden of the Hesperides for her wonderful Garden Blogger’s Foliage Day on the 22nd.
Blue-purple scentless flowers rise 2-4 ft. high from a woody, bush-like base. My flowers are a hybrid of yellow and purple and the spikes are 6-16 in. long. I could swear one of mine was once purple but both are now this bi-color. I have 2 new young plants that are purple and will see if they stay that way.
Leaves are clover-like and turn a beautiful silvery-gray in the fall. It requires very little maintenance once it has matured, has no serious pest or disease problems and is hardy in zones 3-8.
Baptisia blooms here during April and May for about 3 weeks. The roots of this plant are very robust and have withstood vole invasions during the winter. You can see the vole damage in a picture later in the post. Baptisia is very long-lived, and remains an attractive addition to my garden for the growing season due to its foliage.
Baptisia loves to grow in full sun, although it will tolerate some shade. It can also tolerate various moisture levels including drought, and should not be moved once established. I have mine growing in average or clayish soil. It will also grow in somewhat rocky soil. Baptisia can be slow becoming established taking a few years to really reach its full size.
Baptisia can be propagated by cuttings, division or by seed. I love when the flowers fade and the seed pods form and then turn black (pictured left). If left alone they will open and drop their seed close by the plant. I have one plant that is fond of seeding itself so I have many baby Baptisia. If you deadhead the plant, and do not allow these gorgeous seed pods to start formimg (pictured below), that will help.
It is said that Baptisia, like other members of the pea family, requires microorganisms in the soil that produce nitrogen compounds necessary for the plants survival which may be one reason it does not always survive in areas of my garden. So as I transplant the baby plants around, I plan to use the innoculator I used in my veg garden. It worked for the peas and beans so I bet it will help this plant become better established.
Baptisia is native to much of the central and eastern North America and is common in the Midwest. It can be found growing wild at the edges of woods, along streams or in open meadows/prairies. It has been cultivated beyond the US in other areas such as Great Britain.
While cultivars are sometimes not easily found, several hybrids continue to be created. Mine is a hybrid called, Baptisia ‘Twilite’. There is also a white variety, Baptisia alba.
The name Baptisia australis is from the Ancient Greek word bapto, meaning “to dip” or “immerse”. The specific name australis is Latin for “southern”. There are many interesting common names for this plant, such as Indigo Weed, Rattleweed, Rattlebush and Horse Fly Weed.
The name, false indigo, denotes it is not the true indigo plant (Indigofera tinctoria L.) which was introduced from India and used for blue dye by early settlers of America.
Baptisia is an absolute bee magnet and is noted for attracting large numbers of native bees, especially bumble bees. I witnessed so many bees of all shapes and sizes (and other pollinators I could not identify) on this plant for the entire bloom time.
Caterpillars of Wild Indigo Duskywing (Erynnis baptisiae) and Hoary Edge (Achelerus lyciades) love the foliage of this plant. I plan to keep an eye out for caterpillar activity. Generally other animals avoid this plant because the leaves are somewhat poisonous which is a good thing in my garden where the deer think they have free reign.
In the garden, baptisia is great to use to naturalize in an area or for erosion control. It is a must for a meadow, cottage garden and a native plant garden. That is why I am moving the baby plants that have been forming to the meadow this fall.
This plant has been used as an antiseptic and to help in fighting respiratory illnesses. Baptisia is toxic and should not be used unless you really know what you are doing. It should also never be used by pregnant women.
Baptisia is associated with the planet Venus. It is purported to be an excellent protective plant that can be planted around your house or worn on your person.
Native Americans and pioneer settlers used the plant as a source of blue dye for their clothes. Some tribes used it for medicinal purposes. The Osage made an eyewash from the plant. The Cherokee made teas from it. A hot tea was used as a purgative and a cold tea to prevent vomiting. Putting the root in your mouth helped alleviate a toothache. Children would use the dried seed pods as rattles.
Language of Flowers
There is no specific meaning for baptisia, but because it is part of the pea family I decided to use the meaning for peas and sweet peas- departure, everlasting, happy marriage, respect, tender memory.
Wild Blue Indigo
Deep blue of indigo
Stalks reach skyward.
Magnets for the buzzing drone.
Bees drink their fill
With drunken smiles.
Sweet memories linger
With their departure.
Check out other posts in the series, Simply the Best:
Next up on the blog: Next Monday it will be time for Gardens Eye Journal. What will July promise in blooms, veggies, critters and weather? Tune in to see.
I will be linking in with Michelle@Rambling Woods for her Nature Notes meme. It is a great way to see what is happening in nature around the world every Wednesday.
As always, I’ll be joining Tootsie Time’s Fertilizer Friday.
I hope you will join me for my posts, every other Tuesday, at Beautiful Wildlife Garden.
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