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False indigo-bush is a 6-10 ft., loose, airy shrub which often forms dense thickets. Plants develop a leggy character with the majority of their pinnately compound, fine-textured foliage on the upper third of the plant. Leaflets velvety on the lower surface, margins frequently almost parallel, often abruptly rounded at both ends and with a notch at the tip. Flowers small, purple to dark blue with yellow stamens extending beyond the single petal, crowded in narrow, 3-6 in., spikelike clusters at or near the ends of the branchlets, appearing from April to June. Fruit small, up to 3/8 inch long and with blisterlike glands visible under a 10x hand lens. This is a deciduous plant.
This shrub, which often forms thickets on riverbanks and islands, can be weedy or invasive in the northeast. Another False Indigo (A. herbacea) has whitish to blue-violet flowers in fan-like masses on top of the plant and gray-downy foliage with up to 40 leaflets. The genus name, from the Greek amorphos (formless or deformed), alludes to the fact that the flower, with only a single petal (the banner or standard), is unlike the typical pea flowers of the family.Indigo-bush is a medium to large, finely textured, native shrub for wet to dry soils. The 1 foot long, compound leaves are a gray-green. The long-blooming, showy, 3 to 6 inch long, upright flower spikes are royal purple with yellow-orange anthers. A cousin of the shorter prairie lead plant, this plant may be short-lived. This species is native to the Chicago Region according to Swink and Wilhelm’s Plants of the Chicago Region, with updates made according to current research.
Indigo Bush or False Indigo (Amorpha fruiticosa) is one of my favorite late spring blooming shrubs/small trees. Its deep purple blooms, bright orange stamens and fine textured leaves are a welcoming contrast to the many white blooming, larger leaved native shrubs (See photos). According to “Plants of the Chicago Region” it’s native to Kane, DuPage, Cook, Will Kankakee, Grundy , McHenry, Boone Counties in north-eastern Illinois.My Indigo Bush is about 12 feet tall and 8 feet wide , but its thin branches and small leaves make it a very transparent tree (You can see plants underneath and behind it). The Possibility Place Nursery recommends cutting it down to the ground every few years to prevent it from getting leggy but I haven’t had to do this. The only pruning I have done is to cut a couple of branches that were overhanging the path leading to my prairie. Although I’ve read it can form thickets, it hasn’t yet in my yard, even though it gets plenty of water with the downspout next to it. I often take some seed pods to the Wild One Greater DuPage Seed Exchange, if you want to grow one. (Source: goodnaturedlandscapes.com)