Wild indigo root: A Bit of Botany
a little botanical information on wild indigo

Baptisia tinctoria is a herbaceous perennial plant in the Fabaceae family.

This upright, smooth, shrubby perennial typically reaches heights of 2-3 feet.

Its pea-like flowers are small and bright yellow to cream (growing up to 1/2" long) and are produced in numerous, sparsely-flowered clusters (terminal racemes to 4-5"). These clusters appear on stems extending above a foliage mound of gray-green leaves. These clover-like leaves are stalkless, trifoliate and have leaflets up to 1 inch in length.

Wild indigo blooms in late spring to early summer. Its flowers will give way to small inflated seed pods. These will ripen to black and have some ornamental interest.

common names & nomenclature
Since seeds ripen and rattle around in the pods, the plant species has been given the sometimes common name of rattleweed. Baptisia comes from the Greek word for "dye" and tinctoria comes from the Latin word for "dye". Not surprisingly this is a dye plant which was used as an inferior substitute by early Americans for true indigo (genus Indigofera) in making dyes.

Also known as:
wild indigo, indigo weed, horsefly weed, american indigo, rattlebush, baptisia root, yellow false indigo

Wild Indigo, the blue dye root plant
Wild indigo root: Where in the World
habitat and range for wild indigo

Baptisia tinctoria is native to eastern North America, found throughout the eastern United States, west to Minnesota, and south to Florida.

Wild indigo root: Cultivation & Harvesting
considerations for growing and harvesting wild indigo

Wild indigo grows in dry meadows and open woodland environments in full sun.

Prefers a deep, rich, well-drained neutral to slightly acid soil. Grows freely in a loamy soil.

Sow seed as soon as it is ripe in a cold frame. Stored seed should be pre-soaked for 24 hours in warm water and then sown in a cold frame in late winter or early spring. Transplant into individual pots once large enough to handle, plant outside the following spring. Can also take divisions in spring and plant directly into the garden.

Harvest the roots in the fall, dry cut root pieces for later use.

Store dried wild indigo root pieces in an airtight container in a cool, dry place.