Photo of the Week – April 27, 2012

Blue Wild Indigo.  I’m not sure there’s a more distinctive spring flower in the prairie.  It’s hard to imagine confusing it with any other species…

Also, it would be a great name for a band.

Blue wild indigo (Baptisia australis).

The species just barely makes it into Nebraska – it’s more common east and south of us.  The above photo was taken at my in-laws’ prairie garden where I planted some Kansas seed many years ago.  I know there are Flint Hills (Kansas) prairies where this species blooms in abundance – I’ve yet to see that in person, but would really like to.

This is an old photo, not one from this season.  I think it’s a little early for it to be blooming, but with the exceptionally warm spring, maybe it’s in flower now?  Anyone seeing it down in Kansas or Missouri?



About Chris Helzer

Chris Helzer is the Director of Science for The Nature Conservancy in Nebraska. His main role is to evaluate and capture lessons from the Conservancy’s land management and restoration work and then share those lessons with other landowners – both private and public. In addition, Chris works to raise awareness about the importance of prairies and their conservation through his writing, photography, and presentations to various groups. Chris is also the author of "The Ecology and Management of Prairies in the Central United States", published by the University of Iowa Press. He lives in Aurora, Nebraska with his wife Kim and their children.
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22 Responses to Photo of the Week – April 27, 2012

  1. Keith Long says:

    Been blooming here in the southern Flint Hills for 10 days or so. Not a great year for it yet, it was wet early but April has been pretty dry. Had a lot of the Plains Wild Indigo this spring though.

  2. I have it in my front yard (slowly going native by design) so it is a somewhat artificial environment, but it started blooming April 18th.

  3. Paul says:

    This is close: -I don’t know which Indigo they were thinking of when they named the band.

  4. Sid McKnight says:

    It is plentiful right now, blooming in our East Kansas deep root prairies! Sid McKnight, Kansas Trustee

  5. Follow-up…I really should know better than to comment before coffee.

    My front yard is in St. Louis, Missouri in the city itself and thus an urban environment. So in addition to it being a mild winter and warm spring, I have the effects of an urban environment at play.

    Michael with the red face

  6. Becky says:

    Blooming here in north Texas remnant Blackland Prairies.

  7. Not seeing it yet in north central Oklahoma

  8. Laci says:

    Blooming at Fontenelle Forest in Bellevue.

  9. Linda says:

    Mine is just starting to bloom here in Aurora!

    • Chris Helzer says:

      Thanks to everyone for the comments! This is fun… We need to find other ways to do quick surveys across the “listening” area! Maybe next week we’ll see if the Woodhouse’s Toads are calling yet!

  10. John Phelan says:

    Its just beginning to bloom here in SW Oklahoma.

  11. James McGee says:

    I always thought Wild Blue Indigo looked a little like Asparagus when it emerged. In the Chicago area it is not native. I am sure some stewards wish it was not present in their preserves. A good example is West Chicago Prairie where it has become abundant. This prairie preserve used to be a stock holding area. The thinking is that the Wild Blue Indigo was brought to the preserve with hay for cattle from South and West of the area.

    • James C. Trager says:

      Not sure if it’s such a bad thing, by itself, to have this plant added in a prairie, even in a remnant, especially a degraded one like West Chicago. A real problem is if cream-flowered wild indigo is also present, as hybridization ends up diluting both species, and creating frankly ugly, mongrel wild indigos. I know, hard to believe there could be an ugly wild indigo, but I think the hybrid of those two spp. is.
      Oh yeah, and … The blue ones are blooming madly down here around St. Louis.

      • James McGee says:

        I created a small native planting years ago. I established Side Oats Gama grass from seed in a residental yard. I also sowed seed of Wild Blue Indigo at the same time. I did not realize it was not native to the area at the time. The Wild Blue Indigo I used must have been a particularly vigorous variety. Over the years it has shaded out almost all the Side Oats, except along the mowed edges. Other forbs I had planted could not withstand the shading caused by the Wild Blue Indigo and they died out. I started cutting the Blue False Indigo back after flowering. This allowed some recovery of the side oats. After two years the Wild Blue Indigo stopped blooming. More recently, I have let the Wild Blue Indigo take over the prairie planting. Removing it would bring no benefit at this point.

        Luckily, the variety of Wild Blue Indigo at West Chicago Prairie looks less vigorous. It appears to be variety “minor.” There are some plants of conservation concern at West Chicago Prairie. It would be a shame if these species were eliminated from shading.

        FYI, the Wild Blue Indigo in my residential planting is only about a foot high right now. It is still a long way from blooming.

      • Cassi S. says:

        I was there at West Chicago Prairie this morning and confused as to the presence of blue wild indigo. Thanks to these comments, I’ve found my answer (albeit hypothetical)!

        It is growing amidst cream indigo, but I didn’t see any apparent hybrids. Both are flowering right now.

  12. Karen Hamburger says:

    Hey Chris

    I see these plants in SW NE on a Republican tributary (on the medicie creek in Fronteer Ne) in wet… moderatly wet years on a regular basis. I think it is highly migratory. I think it waits for just the right conditions here in Nebraska..

    Looking forward to the frog call challenge!!!

    Heard some calls on the SW Dahms trac at TNC today while looking for the “bever art” you described on earier posts.


  13. Krista D says:

    Blue Wild Indigo blooming in the Wichita, KS area since last week in April. After years of lurking the margins of a hay meadow finally made contact with the owner and she and I spent a recent afternoon walking and IDing plants. There were several patches of mature BWI that neither of us had seen from the road. Delightful find!

  14. I have nominated your blog for the Sunshine Award! Thank you for bringing a little sun to my days with each post. Feel free to participate or simply enjoy the recognition of the nomination. ~ Sherene

  15. James McGee says:

    Better late than never, the Wild Blue Indigo in my prairie planting bloomed this weekend.


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