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Toxic parts

The plant is poisonous in large quantities[1][2].

Edible uses


Young shoots - cooked. An asparagus substitute[3][4][5][6]. Some caution is advised, see the notes above on toxicity.


Material uses

This species is related to the tropical plant Indigo (Indigofera tinctoria) and, like that species, contains a blue dyestuff in the leaves[7]. The dyestuff is only contained in very low concentrations, however, and a very large quantity of leaves would be required to obtain reasonable quantities of indigo[8]. A yellow dye can also be obtained from the plant[9]. If the growing plant is harvested and hung up, it is said to repel flies[10].

Unknown part

Medicinal uses(Warning!)

Wild indigo was a favourite medicine of the N. American Indians, a decoction of the roots being used as an antiseptic wash for wounds and skin complaints[10][11]. Modern research has shown that this acrid bitter herb stimulates the immune system[12][11] and is particularly effective against bacterial infections[11]. Caution is advised in the internal use of this plant, large or frequent doses are potentially harmful[12].

A tea made from the roots is cholagogue, emetic, febrifuge and purgative[13][1][2][14][12]. The fresh root is also considered to be antiseptic, astringent and laxative[13][1][2][14][12]. The infusion is used in the treatment of upper respiratory infections such as tonsillitis and pharyngitis, and is also valuable in treating infections of the chest, gastro-intestinal tract and skin[15].The plants antimicrobial and immune-stimulant properties combat lymphatic problems, when used with detoxifying herbs such as Arctium lappa it helps to reduce enlarged lymph nodes[15]. Wild indigo is frequently prescribed, along with Echinacea, in the treatment of chronic viral infections or chronic fatigue syndrome[15]. A decoction of the root soothes sore or infected nipples and infected skin conditions[15]. When used as a mouth wash or gargle the decoction treats mouth ulcers, gum infections and sore throats[15].

The fresh root, including the bark, is used to make a homeopathic medicine[16]. This has a limited range of action, but is used especially in the treatment of certain types of flu[16].


Ecosystem niche/layer

Ecological Functions

Nitrogen fixer


Nothing listed.


Nothing listed.


Seed - best sown as soon as it is ripe in a cold frame[17]. 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. Prick out the seedlings into individual pots as soon as they are large enough to handle and plant them out into their permanent positions in the summer or following spring. Division in spring[18]. Larger divisions can be planted straight into their permanent positions whilst smaller clumps are best potted up and kept in a cold frame until they are growing away well.

Practical Plants is currently lacking information on propagation instructions of Baptisia tinctoria. Help us fill in the blanks! Edit this page to add your knowledge.


Prefers a deep, rich, well-drained neutral to slightly acid soil in full sun[17][19]. Grows freely in a loamy soil.

Plants are shy flowering in British gardens[17][19]. Plants have a very deep root system and dislike root disturbance, they should be left alone once they are established[18][19].

This species has a symbiotic relationship with certain soil bacteria, these bacteria form nodules on the roots and fix atmospheric nitrogen. Some of this nitrogen is utilized by the growing plant but some can also be used by other plants growing nearby[17].


Problems, pests & diseases

Associations & Interactions

There are no interactions listed for Baptisia tinctoria. Do you know of an interaction that should be listed here? edit this page to add it.

Polycultures & Guilds

There are no polycultures listed which include Baptisia tinctoria.




None listed.


None listed.

Full Data

This table shows all the data stored for this plant.

Binomial name
Baptisia tinctoria
Imported References
Material uses & Functions
Edible uses
None listed.
Material uses
None listed.
Medicinal uses
None listed.
Functions & Nature
Provides forage for
Provides shelter for
Hardiness Zone
Heat Zone
full sun
no shade
Soil PH
Soil Texture
Soil Water Retention
Environmental Tolerances
    Native Climate Zones
    None listed.
    Adapted Climate Zones
    None listed.
    Native Geographical Range
    None listed.
    Native Environment
    None listed.
    Ecosystem Niche
    None listed.
    Root Zone Tendancy
    None listed.
    Deciduous or Evergreen
    Herbaceous or Woody
    Life Cycle
    Growth Rate
    Mature Size
    Flower Colour
    Flower Type


    1. ? Lust. J. The Herb Book. Bantam books ISBN 0-553-23827-2 (1983-00-00)
    2. ? Uphof. J. C. Th. Dictionary of Economic Plants. Weinheim (1959-00-00)
    3. ? 3.03.1 Hedrick. U. P. Sturtevant's Edible Plants of the World. Dover Publications ISBN 0-486-20459-6 (1972-00-00)
    4. ? 4.04.1 Tanaka. T. Tanaka's Cyclopaedia of Edible Plants of the World. Keigaku Publishing (1976-00-00)
    5. ? 5.05.1 Yanovsky. E. Food Plants of the N. American Indians. Publication no. 237. U.S. Depf of Agriculture. ()
    6. ? 6.06.1 Kunkel. G. Plants for Human Consumption. Koeltz Scientific Books ISBN 3874292169 (1984-00-00)
    7. ? 7.07.1 F. Chittendon. RHS Dictionary of Plants plus Supplement. 1956 Oxford University Press (1951-00-00)
    8. ? 8.08.1 Buchanan. R. A Weavers Garden. ()
    9. ? 9.09.1 Usher. G. A Dictionary of Plants Used by Man. Constable ISBN 0094579202 (1974-00-00)
    10. ? Weiner. M. A. Earth Medicine, Earth Food. Ballantine Books ISBN 0-449-90589-6 (1980-00-00)
    11. ? Bown. D. Encyclopaedia of Herbs and their Uses. Dorling Kindersley, London. ISBN 0-7513-020-31 (1995-00-00)
    12. ? Foster. S. & Duke. J. A. A Field Guide to Medicinal Plants. Eastern and Central N. America. Houghton Mifflin Co. ISBN 0395467225 (1990-00-00)
    13. ? Grieve. A Modern Herbal. Penguin ISBN 0-14-046-440-9 (1984-00-00)
    14. ? Mills. S. Y. The Dictionary of Modern Herbalism. ()
    15. ? Chevallier. A. The Encyclopedia of Medicinal Plants Dorling Kindersley. London ISBN 9-780751-303148 (1996-00-00)
    16. ? Castro. M. The Complete Homeopathy Handbook. Macmillan. London. ISBN 0-333-55581-3 (1990-00-00)
    17. ? Huxley. A. The New RHS Dictionary of Gardening. 1992. MacMillan Press ISBN 0-333-47494-5 (1992-00-00)
    18. ? 18.018.1 Brickell. C. The RHS Gardener's Encyclopedia of Plants and Flowers Dorling Kindersley Publishers Ltd. ISBN 0-86318-386-7 (1990-00-00)
    19. ? Thomas. G. S. Perennial Garden Plants J. M. Dent & Sons, London. ISBN 0 460 86048 8 (1990-00-00)
    20. ? Fernald. M. L. Gray's Manual of Botany. American Book Co. (1950-00-00)