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May Resilient Plant

Thursday, May 16, 2019
by Josh Steger | Director of Horticulture

If you’re looking for something that will perform all year in your garden, False Blue Indigo is your answer.  This plant has many great attributes in beauty, toughness and novelty uses, making this a great plant for resiliency.  Where do I begin with this one?

Baptisia australis is from the legume family Fabaceae and is native to Wisconsin! Baptisia can be found growing in meadows and prairies throughout Wisconsin.  Baptisia grow about 3 to 4 feet tall and 3 feet wide, taking on the size of a small perennial shrub.  Baptisia takes a good 2 to 3 years to get established.  Once established, they can form a 15 feet long taproot in the ground, making it almost impossible to move.  Having a taproot this long has many advantages. One, it makes the plant more likely to become resistant to drought by finding water sources deeper in the ground.  Two, being that it is a native plant to prairies and meadows, it can withstand harsh winters and controlled prairie burns in the spring. Lastly, within these roots microorganisms produce nitrogen, which is taken up by this plant and other surrounding plants.  

The flowers of Baptisia australis are quite beautiful, resembling that of a pea plant.  They are--you guessed it--an indigo color. There are many other cultivars out there with different colored flowers including yellow, cream and violet.  Going back to being a plant that thrives in prairies, Baptisia can provide food to livestock, but not to rabbits or deer.  Yes; finally a plant that our rabbit friends won’t eat! After flowers are produced, they will form seed pods that will turn black in September/October.  Leave these pods on during the end of the season because they not only provide food for winter wildlife, they also bring some texture and color to the browns of fall and white’s of winter.  

If you are looking to see Baptisia in real life, you can find it on the East side of the New American Garden near the visitors kiosk.  

Tags: Garden Display and Design, Green Initiatives

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Madison WI 53706

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