It Gets Tricky; Sometimes!   Leave a comment

Walking along the Wareham River, recently, I came upon this lone curiosity.

Getting closer, it looks almost like a clover, but different.  The leaves have more rounded ends then most clovers and the overall plant shape is very different.  But, it does have the pea-like flowers and groups of three leaflets. 

Normally this is where I bust out my PETERSON Edible Wild Plants FIELD GUIDE; but, it’s at home in two pieces!  So, I head back with photos only; no samples, yet!  Not wanting some evil skin crud, I’ll wait for certain identification, before I touch this beauty.

Not at all surprisingly, there it is, listed on page 80, with the clovers, “Wild Indigo  Baptisia tinctoria. . . Poisonousalong with this, ” Warning: they have been known to poison cattle and are best left alone.” (1)  Well, now I know I can touch it, get closer identification photos, and post it on the poison plants page.

But, where did it go?!?!?!?  We had a pretty good thunderstorm, the night before, and Ms. Baptisia couldn’t take the wind blowing off the River, so, she toppled.

I can still pinch off a few leaves, and flowers for photos.  I wonder if this is the indigo used to dye fabric?

Wild Indigo,  Baptisia tinctoria, is a 1 – 3 ft tall, multi branched, mini-treeThe smooth stems and groups of 3-leaflets are bluish-green.  The tiny, yellow pea-like flowers bloom from April, until September.

The leaves turn black, when dried; and the rest of the plant turns blackish-grey.

Which really makes me wonder if this is, indeed, the plant used to dye fabric.  So, I went on e-How and looked it up!

“When the sap of the yellow wild indigo plant is exposed to air, the sap turns to a deep purple color. The sap has been used as a dye; however, the dye does not provide as rich of a color as Indigofera tinctoria, or “true” indigo. It is also not as colorfast as true indigo and fades faster. As a result, Indigofera tinctoria is more commonly used as a dye than wild indigo.” (2)

When I continued to read I came to find out that Wild Indigo has medicinal properties!

“Sometimes called yellow broom or baptisia, wild indigo is a plant native to North America. Despite the fact that herbalists use wild indigo for the treatment of medical conditions like diphtheria, influenza, skin ulcers and open wounds, wild indigo poses a risk for side effects in some patients.  Wild indigo has the potential to cause side effects when taken orally or applied to your skin at doses of 30g or more per day, warns the University of California-San Diego.  The risk of side effects from wild indigo increases when the herb is used for more than two weeks at a time, cautions the University of California-San Diego.  Possible side effects of wild indigo include diarrhea, vomiting and nausea due to toxic chemicals contained in the plant like baptisin and cytisine, reports North Carolina State University.  If you choose to take wild indigo, read all labels carefully and avoid taking more than the manufacturer’s or your herbalist’s recommended amount.  Because its effects upon fetal development are unknown, avoid taking wild indigo while pregnant or nursing. If you have a history of stomach or intestinal problems, you should not take wild indigo, cautions RxList.” (3)

Now I’m very curious and open  THE HOLISTIC HERBAL; where David Hoffman writes, “Wild Indigo is a herb to be considered whenever there is a focused infection” (4)  Which makes me wonder, what, exactly, is the problem.  And there it is, the A word, further down the page!  One of the constituents of Wild Indigo is alkaloids; which are among the most potent plant constituents and include some hallucinogens and poisons.  Whenever we use plants with any of the alkaloids present it becomes important and very wise to first seek professional advise.  Since one good thought leads to another, Wild Indigo will be the first plant entered on a new page; titled “Unavoidable  Plants”  Many of which are look-alikes.  Although two plants may look similar does not mean they can be used interchangeably.  Most of the plants on this new page will be listed (at least, in some literature) as poisonous; in some way.  All seem to have some medicinal properties; when used properly.  Although I was first tempted to overlook and avoid these plants, they have become unavoidable!  Off the top of my head, I can think of several that will fit the page; ie: Butterfly Weed, Soapwort, Poke, Wild Lettuce, Tansy, and Bittersweet Nightshade.

I will not be collecting any Wild Indigo root to try; as that was the only plant I found. 

Just click any photo to enlarge.

Thanx for stopping by.  See you soon.

(1) PETERSON FIELD GUIDES, Edible Wild Plants, Lee Allen Peterson.

     Houghton Mifflin. 1977

(2)  Read more: Uses for Yellow Wild Indigo |

(3) Read more: Wild Indigo Side Effects |


     Element Books.  1996



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