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Amorpha fruticosa L.

False indigo, desert false indigo, bastard indigobush

KingdomPlantaePlants, but not fungi, lichens, or algae
SubkingdomTracheobiontaVascular plants—plants with a “circulatory system” for delivering water and nutrients
DivisionMagnoliophytaFlowering plants, also known as angiosperms
ClassMagnoliopsidaDicotyledons—plants with two initial seed leaves
SubclassRosidaeRoses, legumes, proteas, dogwoods, hydrangeas, mistletoes, euphorbias, grapes, many more
OrderFabalesLegumes (pea and bean families)
FamilyFabaceaeLegume family (peas and beans)
GenusAmorphaFrom Greek amophos, “deformed,” referring to the single-petaled flower
SpeciesfruticosaFrom the Latin frutex, “a shrub,” therefore, shrubby, bushy

About plant names...

False indigo is native through much of North America, and is also naturalized in Europe and Asia. It prefers moist woods and stream banks.

Plants: Shrubs are deciduous, up to 16-20′ (5-6 m) in height and 33-39′ (10-12 m) around. Lower stems are woody.

Leaves: Leaves are pinnately compound, with 8-35 leaflets per group. The stems supporting the leaflets are light grayish green, with fine hairs. Leaflets are green above, velvety below, ½-1½″ (1.3-3.8 cm) × ½-1″ (1.3-2.5 cm), generally oblong in shape. The leaf margins are often nearly parellel, rounding abruptly at the ends. Leaflet undersides have scattered, dark, irregularly shaped glands.

Flowers: Flowers appear in narrow, conical racemes 3-6″ (7.6-15 cm) long, in groups of 1 to 6. Each flower is ¼″ (6.3 mm), tubular, purple to dark blue, with yellow stamens and bright orange-yellow anthers. They appear from April-June.

Fruits: Dense groups of small fruits resembling tiny cucumbers, each up to ⅜″ (9.5 mm) long, yellow green, browning with age. Blisterlike glands are visible under magnification. Each fruit has a sharp tip and contains 1-2 seeds.

Online References:

Illinois Wildflowers

Www.carolinanature.com (Great photos)

The Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center

The Missouri Botanical Garden

The Virginia Tech Department of Forest Resources and Environmental Conservation

SEINet—the Southwest Environmental Information Network


Clemants, Steven; Gracie, Carol, Wildflowers in the Field and Forest, Oxford University Press, 2006, p. 34

Amorpha angustifolia (Pursh) Boynt.

Amorpha bushii Rydb.

Amorpha croceolanata P.W. Watson

Amorpha curtissii Rydb.

Amorpha dewinkeleri Small

Amorpha fruticosa L. var. angustifolia Pursh

Amorpha fruticosa L. var. croceolanata (P.W. Watson) P.W. Watson ex Mouillef.

Amorpha fruticosa L. var. emarginata Pursh

Amorpha fruticosa L. var. occidentalis (Abrams) Kearney & Peebles

Amorpha fruticosa L. var. oblongifolia Palmer

Amorpha fruticosa L. var. tennesseensis (Shuttlw. ex Kunze) Palmer

Amorpha occidentalis Abrams

Amorpha occidentalis Abrams var. arizonica (Rydb.) Palmer

Amorpha occidentalis Abrams var. emarginata (Pursh) Palmer

Amorpha tennesseensis Shuttlw. ex Kunze

Amorpha virgata Small


Amorpha fruticosa description by Thomas H. Kent, last updated 25 May 2020.

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Amorpha fruticosa (false indigo, desert false indigo, bastard indigobush)

8/27/2014 · Rio Grande Nature Center, Albuquerque, New Mex­ico · ≈ 12 × 8″ (31 × 21 cm)

Amorpha fruticosa (false indigo, desert false indigo, bastard indigobush)

8/27/2014 · Rio Grande Nature Center, Albuquerque, New Mex­ico · ≈ 10 × 7″ (25 × 16 cm)

Range: Zones 4-9:

About this map...