Simply The Best-June

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.
Kahlil Gibran

 

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 IMG_4406yellow 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.

 

 

Origin

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.

 

 

Name

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 WeedRattleweedRattlebush 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.

 

 

Uses

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) IMG_4364on 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.

 

 

Folklore

vole damage

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.

Donna Donabella

 

____________________________________________________________________________

Check out other posts in the series, Simply the Best:

 

May-Goat’s Beard

April-Lupine

March-Trillium

February-Trout Lily

January-Hepatica

____________________________________________________________________________


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.

Please remember, to comment click on the title of the post and the page will reload with the comments section.

All content is copyrighted and the sole property of Donna Donabella @ Gardens Eye View.  Any reprints or use of content or photos is by permission only.

71 comments

  1. Alistair says:

    Hi Donna, we have never had Baptisia in the garden. After reading your your post it stands to reason I am tempted. And, I will tell you this, if I do include it in my plant profiles it will be very easy, I will just take a picture and add a link such—http://gardenseyeview.com/2012/06/25/simply-the-best-june/

    • Donna says:

      It really is such an easy plant to grow and manage once it starts to grow. It looks pitiful the first couple of years and then suddenly this giant bush emerges from the ground in spring with these glorious flowers a month later…I love the seed pods as they form from green to black the rest of the season. I would be honored to be linked in with your blog Alistair 🙂 Glad you liked the post!

  2. Laura@PatioPatch says:

    A brilliant feature and enjoyed the encyclopoedic knowledge here for Baptisia, all laid out in your inimitable words and images. Why this was new to me I do not know given that the RHS list it as an ideal cottage garden plant in a big sunny space.

    • Donna says:

      That is wonderful news to hear the RHS has it on their list. It really is a winner but patience is a must to let it establish. Of course giving it enough room is also critical since it will need 3 feet of garden space. So glad you enjoyed the post and thank you for your lovely comment.

    • Donna says:

      Indeed silver is unusual for fall. Thee leaves are already beginning to lighten as the seed pods form. Quite a lovely sight to watch it happen over time.

  3. Nadezda says:

    Donna, I’ve never grown baptisia in my garden. Now after reading your post I saw in Encyclopedia that it can be grown in our 5a zone. I’ll try!

  4. Cathy says:

    Really useful information. I’m growing one for the first time this year, but it hasn’t flowered yet. I guess I just have to be patient! Thanks for the informative post!

  5. Karin/Southern Meadows says:

    I have yellow Baptista in my garden and I agree they are fabulous. Mine are finished blooming but frankly I like their seed pods even better than the blooms. They are so plump. Great profile of this plant. My goodness those voles are everywhere!

    • Donna says:

      You have no idea Karin. Two winters ago they decided to make nests out of both my baptisia plants in 2 different locations. They ripped out the roots and that was their winter nests as the one picture shows. I feared I had lost the plants, but you know they bloomed bigger and better that year. Amazing native plants. I also adore the seed pods and many people mistake them for the flower especially as they turn black.

  6. Karen says:

    Great post. I have Twilite Prairieblues which was developed by the Chicago Botanic Garden and lots of my neighbors think it was a shrub. Unfortunately mine bloomed out early this year due to the heat but it was lovely while in bloom.

    • Donna says:

      Karen how lovely to have you visit the garden. Our March heat wave didn’t last and so our plants have pretty much bloomed on schedule…I do love this plant and did not know its origin…thx for letting me know!

  7. PlantPostings says:

    Hi Donna: I don’t have any experience with Baptisia, but it looks fresh and has an interesting structure. The flower pods do remind me of Lupines and Pea pods, so I can see how they’re related. I’ll bet it adds needed nitrogen to your garden, too. Great post!

  8. Donna says:

    Loads of useful information on Baptisia. Nice quote too. I have always loved and quoted Kahlil Gibran often. I have a book with his writings all these years since I was very young.

    • Donna says:

      So happy that you enjoyed the post. I learn so much about these wonderful plants when I profile them. Kahil Gibran was one of the first authors who greatly influenced me in my formative years, and I still reread The Prophet. Another wonderful thing we have in common 🙂

  9. tina says:

    I love it when you do plant profiles! Baptisia is a super good plant. Mine all got attacked by the larva of the genista broom moth caterpillar-a tenting caterpillar that is not desirable at all. Last year it was a different caterpillar so I can attest bugs love it for a host plant. What a great shot of the vole damage. I think unless you are a very experienced gardener many don’t know what kind of damage voles do. Pesky things! Yesterday one walked right in front of me in broad daylight! I was freaked needless to say. Luckily hubby was here and took care of it as I could not do it. Your bicolor baptisia is so lovely. Mine are all blue or yellow but I hope to add one like yours. Gorgeous first shot of it!

    • Donna says:

      Tina it is nice to hear folks like the plant profiles. Sorry to hear about the invasion though. Even though those voles dug through the roots and dug up the roots for a nest, the plant grew and bloomed profusely as if nothing had happened. I get freaked by them too as they slither past. I hope to get a couple of pure purple ones going. I plant to dig out non-performing plants and sub in some smaller baptisia in hopes they will have a good spot to show off.

  10. Grace says:

    I tried growing the blue variety but my plant was crowded out by its more robust neighbors. I need more room. Great information and photos!

  11. Eileen says:

    Great info and the Baptista plant is gorgeous. Lovely photos. We also have a terrible vole problem. Thanks for sharing the photos and the post. Have a great day.

    • Donna says:

      Eileen I was so happy to see this plant stand up to those nasty voles and come right back as though they were sticking out their tongue. Glad you enjoyed it!

  12. RamblingWoods says:

    Donna…I was not aware of this…big surprise and how nice that other gardeners may want to try it..I need more sunny room and I have a plan working in my head for the front yard to do this…Thank you for participating in this week’s Nature Notes, I really appreciate it..Michelle

    • Donna says:

      Michelle, as fall gets nearer I would be delighted to send you some seedlings to plant in the meadow…let me know. Glad you enjoyed the post!

      • http://ramblingwoods.com/ says:

        I would love that..I know we have voles and have seen them, but I am not going to kill them unless they come into the garage and hit a snap trap..most human way of killing rodents…I was on a high, but now both new little coneflower were eaten and the small butterfly weed died…but I guess that happens….Michelle

        • Donna says:

          OK I will make a note to myself…the babies may be of the hybrid until I get my species one going….the deer ate the tops off my coneflowers in spots but it will grow back next year. The butterfly weed may come back next year…mine took a while to finally grow in and stay. Is the butterfly weed in the meadow? They love the meadow.

  13. Andrea says:

    yes Donna, you are right in that title. I might not know that plant but your post is so informative. In the pack my friend blogger from the USA sent me, one is baptisia, and i have to search the internet of how it looks like. However, it never germinated, poor seeds, it didn’t stand the heat here!

  14. nhgarden says:

    I’ve had mine for many years and actually transplanted it. It did much better in the new location, but it’s so much bigger now! I was able to get two plants from the original one.

    • Donna says:

      That is great to hear. They look easier to transplant in the spring before they grow so I may just do that. Good to know I can divide and move.

  15. Debbie / GardenofPossibilities says:

    Donna, Baptisia is one of my favorite plants. Mine are growing in full sun in average soil with no supplemental irrigation. I’d consider them very drought-tolerant and the deer never bother them – 2 key factors for inclusion in my garden. I’m not sure how I feel about some of the cultivars, though…the colors are interesting but nothing seems to beat the lovely purple-blue of the species, at least in my mind.

    I enjoyed reading the folklore about the plant. Isn’t it funny how the hot & cold teas had such different uses?

    • Donna says:

      Debbie I agree..the cultivars are nice but I wanted the species plant. I now am nursing a couple with hopes to have more. I love them as well because they require no fussing and the deer avoid them. I am hoping to have a meadow full of purple spires bloom just about the time of the lupines.

  16. Rose says:

    Thanks for all this great information on a plant I love, Donna. My baptisia is long past blooming, but I’m enjoying the seed pods right now. I just wish mine would produce some babies, too!

    • Donna says:

      Glad you enjoyed it Rose. It took a couple of years, but once those seeds dropped I started noticing the babies. It took me a while though to recognize them and then I saw those distinctive leaves and knew what they were. Of course you can also keep the seed and try to grow them from seed.

  17. Gail says:

    Donna, I love, love, love baptisias and cannot imagine not having them in the garden. The Bumbles love them~I can tell how very much from the seeds they’ve produced. Not bad considering we have had fewer Bumbles this past spring. Thanks for joining WW! gail

    • Donna says:

      I cannot imagine my garden without them either, Gail. I so look forward to them and cannot drink them in enough…I have 2 full size and I plant to have many more. So glad you visited!!

  18. Stacy says:

    What an informative post, Donna! Interesting about the micro-organisms — that might explain some problems I’ve had growing legumes before. I’ve seen (and lusted after) baptisia in the High Country Gardens catalog but wonder if it might be happier in Santa Fe than here. The seed pods are wonderful! Do they stay on all winter?

    • Donna says:

      I cannot believe how well the legumes are doing because of the soil innoculator…Baptisia dies back to the ground usually in winter and the seed pods eventually drop off depending on the amount of snow we have. I bet High Country can tell you how they might do in your area…but definitely good for Santa Fe.

  19. HolleyGarden says:

    I loved reading all this information about Baptisia, as I don’t have it in my garden. I also appreciate the bush shot. That helps so much when trying to find the right spot for a new plant! But, every year it gets so hot here (like it is now), that even though I am in zone 8 for cold hardiness, I wonder if I should find plants that can take zone 9 heat!

  20. Linda says:

    Such a beautiful baptisia, and thank you for the in-depth look at these wonderful plants.

    I started some from seeds a few years ago – looking forward to the blooms – maybe next year!

    • Donna says:

      Linda I am glad you found the post useful. It is such a wonderful plant to wait for…looking forward to seeing pictures perhaps next year of yours in bloom.

  21. Tootsie says:

    I think I might need to consider some Baptista for my gardens too!!!
    I am so happy that you have linked in with my little flaunting party this week…I love visiting your gardens friend…I wish I lived close enough to peek over your fence and admire in real time! I have shared your post this week with the Tootsie Time Facebook page. Hugs and smiles from Alberta!!!
    (¯`v´¯)
    `*.¸.*´Glenda/Tootsie
    ¸.•´¸.•*¨) ¸.•*¨)
    (¸.•´ (¸.•´ .•´ ¸¸.•¨¯`•.

    • Donna says:

      You would love it…very easy and dependable plant. So glad you really enjoyed the post and thx for the share on FB. I would love to have you live close by and share…wishing you a lovely weekend in the garden!

    • Donna says:

      Mary how wonderful to have you visit the garden. You can’t go wrong with this native plant. This particular species may not be exactly right for CO, but whatever is native or works in CO is worth planting.

    • Donna says:

      Oh Helene you have just made my day. I am so honored to be nominated for the award and I will check it out. Another UK blogger let me know that Baptisia is listed by the RHS as an ideal cottage garden plant in a sunny border so I bet it would love your garden. After seeing your lovely garden it would easily find a wonderful spot and look marvelous!

  22. Dee/reddirtramblings says:

    I think the baptisias are the most under-utilized prairie plants out there. They are beautiful, but they take about three years to get started, and people aren’t patient enough. I bought another one the other day, ‘Twilite Prairie Blues’ because I didn’t have it. Thanks for posting about this excellent plant. A good one indeed.~~Dee

    • Donna says:

      Dee I couldn’t agree more…I hope folks can be patient when they try this gorgeous bee magnet. It is so hard to resist adding more and I love my Twilite….Glad you enjoyed the post!

  23. Athena at Minerva's Garden says:

    Hi Donna: This was a great post, full of wonderful information. I grow 2 baptistas in my garden–one is blue and the other yellow, and they do pretty well. The blue one is starting to bloom right now. Take care, and have a great weekend!

    • Donna says:

      Athena I am sure your baptisia are just gorgeous especially the yellow one. So glad you stopped by and that you enjoyed the post!! Enjoy your weekend in the garden.

  24. Jean says:

    Donna, I love Baptisia and have both the old-fashioned indigo one and the cultivar Carolina Moonlight in my garden. Since these are planted side-by-side, I wonder if I’ll end up with bi-color babies? (That would be fun.) A supermarket that I shop at has the indigo plant growing with pink peonies, and it is a lovely combination.

    One year I had a woodchuck in my garden who was apparently fond of peas and would sit up on its hind legs in broad daylight, pulling down the Baptisia branches and eating the ripening seed pods.

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