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Indigofera spicata

Creeping Indigo

Indigofera spicata

in-dig-OFF-er-ah spike-AY-tah



Native to: Africa and the Arabian Peninsula, but widely naturalized in warm areas.


Florida abundance and distribution: Frequent in Florida, except for the western panhandle.


Recognition:  An herb with branches spreading flat on the ground and compound leaves with mostly 5 or 7 leaflets.  The most conspicuous feature is the salmon color of the tightly clustered flowers.


Potentially confusion species:  The only indigos likely to be seen in south Florida that grow flat on the ground are creeping indigo and the less common native Coastal Indigo (Indigofera miniata).  The technical differences that distinguish these species are difficult to interpret. Specimens from south Florida, however, look quite different Coastal Indigo has small, narrow leaflets covered with pale hairs lying flat that give the leaves a grayish look and flowers and fruits that are much less crowded.


Other:  Creeping indigo has been used for erosion control and soil improvement, but planting in pasture is avoided because the plant contains a toxic amino acid that causes liver damage and abortion.  This species has been used to make indigo dye, but the larger Indigofera tinctoria was normally used.


Contributed by: David Black, Ph.D.



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