Sunday, May 15, 2016

Wild White Indigo - Baptisia alba

Wild white indigo (Baptisia alba)  is one of eight native species in this genus and one of two with white flowers. The other white-flowered species (B. albescens) has noticeably smaller flowers and narrower leaves. The flattened ripe seeds pods are black instead of brown. Wild white indigo is native to well-drained upland sites in much of the northern one-third of Florida and throughout the eastern half of the U.S.
Wild white indigo is a perennial sub-shrub that can grow to 3 feet tall from a stout main stem, 6 inches in diameter. It dies back to the ground in winter and emerges again in early spring. Like many members of the bean family, the leaves are three-parted. Each leaf is about 3 inches long and has a whitish cast on the upper surface.
Flowering occurs from late spring into summer. Many upright flower stalks are produced and they stand a foot or more above the foliage in very showy racemes. As the name implies, the flowers are creamy white in color with a pronounced lower lip and smaller upper petal. Each bloom is nearly 1 inch long. They are pollinated primarily by large bees. It also is the larval food plant for Zarucco and Wild Indigo Duskywing Skippers.
This species is the most widely propagated member of this genus in Florida and is available from a number of nurseries affiliated with FANN - the Florida Association of Native Nurseries. I have not had success with it in my central Florida landscape, but it is relatively easy within its more-northern Florida range if given well-drained sandy soils and at least a half day of sun.

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