Baptisia is a genus of more than 20 species of perennials in the family Fabaceae, native to North America.
These long-living, showy plants have impressive spikes of pea-like flowers that bloom in spring and summer, attracting butterflies, hummingbirds and bees. Their durability and beauty have been long appreciated by gardeners.
“Baptisia” comes from the Greek word “bapto”, which means “to immerse” or “to dye”, in reference to the plant’s usefulness in creating dyes for cloth.
Baptisia symbolizes protection.
Interesting facts about Baptisia:
Baptisia as a Host Plant
Although it is toxic to many insects, Baptisia is a host plant for several butterfly species, including Wild Indigo Duskywing (Erynnis baptisiae), Orange Sulphur (Colias eurytheme), Clouded Sulphur (Colias philodice), Eastern Tailed-Blue (Cupido comyntas), Hoary Edge (Achalarus lyciades) and Frosted Elfin (Callophrys irus).
Is Baptisia Poisonous?
Baptisia is potentially poisonous to humans and animals if ingested.
The plant contains cytisine, an alkaloid, which in high doses can cause nausea, convulsions, hallucinations and even death.
Benefits and Uses
Although the plant is toxic, it has been used in medicine as an anti-inflammatory, antiseptic, emetic and purgative to treat fever, cough, toothaches, pneumonia, influenza, tuberculosis and to stimulate the immune system.
Native Americans used the plant as a source of blue dye for their clothes.
Baptisia comes in shades of blue, yellow and white, while many hybrids can be found in a wide variety of colors.
The species range in size from 30 cm to 1,5 metres (1-5 ft) in height.
Baptisia prefers rich, well drained and slightly acidic soils.