A branching, shrubby, hairless perennial. Flowers pure white, up to 1 inch long, with the typical 5-petalled "pea flower" configuration (1 banner petal above, 2 wing petals to the sides, and 2 fused petals below that form a keel), each flower with its own short stalk, arranged in erect or curved racemes. Blooms May–July. Leaves alternate, all along stems, divided into 3 leaflets; leaflets narrow, oblong, 1-3 inches long, with rounded tips. Stems smooth, covered with a glaucous (gray-white) coating.
Baptisia alba (formerly B. leucantha)
Height: to 5 feet or more.
Where To Find
Occurs on prairies, fields, glades, rocky open slopes, valleys, roadsides, and streamsides. Prefers moist areas.
The foliage of this species has been used as a poor substitute for indigo dye. Although several insects eat it, white wild indigo is poisonous to mammals, including humans and livestock. This bushy plant, once established, is a strikingly beautiful native species for landscaping.
Several insects pollinate the flowers or eat the foliage. Most remarkable is the wild indigo dusky wing (Erynnis baptisiae), whose larvae feed only on this species. This butterfly's range and extremely local occurrence, in prairies and forest edges, coincides with the presence of its food plant.
About Wildflowers, Grasses and Other Nonwoody Plants in Missouri
A very simple way of thinking about the green world is to divide the vascular plants into two groups: woody and nonwoody (or herbaceous). But this is an artificial division; many plant families include some species that are woody and some that are not. The diversity of nonwoody vascular plants is staggering! Think of all the ferns, grasses, sedges, lilies, peas, sunflowers, nightshades, milkweeds, mustards, mints, and mallows — weeds and wildflowers — and many more!