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Amorpha fruticosa - L.

Common Name False Indigo, False indigo bush
Family Fabaceae or Leguminosae
USDA hardiness 4-8
Known Hazards The plant is said to contain alkaloids and be poisonous to livestock[274].
Habitats River banks, rich moist thickets etc[43, 184]. Grows chiefly in limestone soils[274].
Range Southern N. America. Locally naturalized in S. and C. Europe[50].
Edibility Rating    (1 of 5)
Other Uses    (3 of 5)
Weed Potential Yes
Medicinal Rating    (2 of 5)
Care (info)
Fully Hardy Well drained soil Moist Soil Semi-shade Full sun
Amorpha fruticosa False Indigo, False indigo bush


http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/User:Gromhelm
Amorpha fruticosa False Indigo, False indigo bush
http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/User:Gromhelm

 

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Summary

Amorpha fruticosa is a deciduous nitrogen fixing shrub in the legume family. Found wild in most of the contiguous United States, southeastern Canada, and northern Mexico and introduced to Europe. Asia and other continents. It is often cultivated as an ornamental plant. It has minor edible use and some additional uses including: Bedding; Dye; Insecticide; Oil; Repellent; Shelterbelt; and Soil stabilization. Common names, including desert false indigo, false indigo-bush, and bastard indigobush.


Physical Characteristics

 icon of manicon of shrub
Amorpha fruticosa is a deciduous Shrub growing to 4.5 m (14ft 9in) at a medium rate.
It is hardy to zone (UK) 4. It is in flower in July. The species is hermaphrodite (has both male and female organs).
It can fix Nitrogen.
Suitable for: light (sandy) and medium (loamy) soils, prefers well-drained soil and can grow in nutritionally poor soil. Suitable pH: acid, neutral and basic (alkaline) soils. It can grow in semi-shade (light woodland) or no shade. It prefers dry or moist soil and can tolerate drought. The plant can tolerates strong winds but not maritime exposure.

UK Hardiness Map US Hardiness Map

Synonyms

Habitats

Woodland Garden Sunny Edge; Dappled Shade;

Edible Uses

Edible Parts: Oil
Edible Uses: Condiment  Oil

The crushed fruit is used as a condiment[105, 177, 183].

References

Medicinal Uses

Plants For A Future can not take any responsibility for any adverse effects from the use of plants. Always seek advice from a professional before using a plant medicinally.


A user has recently sent us an article in www.frontiersin.org Amorpha fruticosa – A Noxious Invasive Alien Plant in Europe or a Medicinal Plant against Metabolic Disease? which states "Native Americans of the Great Plains employed several of the more common Amorpha species for a variety of uses. Amorpha fruticosa was used for bedding material, horse feed, arrow shafts, the stems were arranged on the ground to create a clean surface on which to put butchered meat, and name “false indigo” is related to the application of the plant as a blue dye (Hoffman, 1891; Gilmore, 1913, 1919; Smith, 1928; Vestal and Schultes, 1939; Munson, 1981; Kindscher and Noguera, 2002; Austin, 2004; Straub, 2010). For medicinal purposes such as stomach pain, intestinal worms, eczema, neuralgia, and rheumatism, the related species A. canescens was used and its powdered leaves were applied to wounds (Hoffman, 1891; Gilmore, 1913, 1919; Smith, 1928, Straub, 2010). Moreover, reports for medicinal use of Amorpha fruticosa are also available: The Seminoles used infusion from leaves and stems as a general tonic and also against rheumatism and chronic sickness together with other plants; the Omaha used the plant to cure wounds (Munson, 1981; Austin, 2004)." We will research and update this section soon.

References

Now available: PLANTS FOR YOUR FOOD FOREST: 500 Plants for Temperate Food Forests and Permaculture Gardens.

An important new book from PFAF. It focuses on the attributes of plants suitable for food forests, what each can contribute to a food forest ecosystem, including carbon sequestration, and the kinds of foods they yield. The book suggests that community and small-scale food forests can provide a real alternative to intensive industrialised agriculture, and help to combat the many inter-related environmental crises that threaten the very future of life on Earth.

Read More

FOOD FOREST PLANTS

Other Uses

Bedding  Dye  Insecticide  Oil  Repellent  Shelterbelt  Soil stabilization

Plants have an extensive root system and are also fairly wind tolerant, they can be planted as a windbreak and also to prevent soil erosion[200]. Resinous pustules on the plant contain 'amorpha', a contact and stomachic insecticide that also acts as an insect repellent[57, 200]. The stems are used as bedding[61]. The plant contains some indigo pigment and can be used to make a blue dye[169]. Unfortunately, the pigment is only present in very small quantities, there is not enough to harvest commercially[169].

Special Uses

Carbon Farming  Food Forest  Nitrogen Fixer  Scented Plants

References

Cultivation details

Agroforestry Services: Alley crop  Agroforestry Services: Contour hedgerow  Agroforestry Services: Nitrogen  Agroforestry Services: Windbreak  Fodder: Bank  Industrial Crop: Pesticide  Management: Coppice  Minor Global Crop

Prefers a light well-drained sandy soil in sun or light shade[184, 200]. Plants are fairly wind-resistant[200]. A very hardy plant, tolerating temperatures down to about -25c[184, 200]. A polymorphic species, there are many named forms[43]. The flowers have a vanilla perfume[245]. Plants resent root disturbance, they should be planted out into their final positions whilst small[133]. Trees only ripen their seed in fine autumns[80]. Plants are said to be immune to insect pests[200]. This species has a symbiotic relationship with certain soil bacteria, these bacteria form nodules on the roots and fix atmospheric nitrogen. Some of this nitrogen is utilized by the growing plant but some can also be used by other plants growing nearby[200]. The plant is heat tolerant in zones 8 through 1. (Plant Hardiness Zones show how well plants withstand cold winter temperatures. Plant Heat Zones show when plants would start suffering from the heat. The Plant Heat Zone map is based on the number of "heat days" experienced in a given area where the temperature climbs to over 86 degrees F (30°C). At this temperature, many plants begin to suffer physiological damage. Heat Zones range from 1 (no heat days) to 12 (210 or more heat days). For example Heat Zone. 11-1 indicates that the plant is heat tolerant in zones 11 through 1.) For polyculture design as well as the above-ground architecture (form - tree, shrub etc. and size shown above) information on the habit and root pattern is also useful and given here if available. The plant growth habit is multistemmed with multiple stems from the crown [1-2]. The root pattern is flat with shallow roots forming a plate near the soil surface [1-2]. The root pattern is suckering with new plants from underground runners away from the plant [1-2].

Carbon Farming

  • Agroforestry Services: Alley crop  Integrates annual crops with rows of perennials.
  • Agroforestry Services: Contour hedgerow  Alley cropping systems on the contour of slopes.
  • Agroforestry Services: Nitrogen  Plants that contribute to nitrogen fixation include the legume family – Fabaceae.
  • Agroforestry Services: Windbreak  Linear plantings of trees and shrubs designed to enhance crop production, protect people and livestock and benefit soil and water conservation.
  • Fodder: Bank  Fodder banks are plantings of high-quality fodder species. Their goal is to maintain healthy productive animals. They can be utilized all year, but are designed to bridge the forage scarcity of annual dry seasons. Fodder bank plants are usually trees or shrubs, and often legumes. The relatively deep roots of these woody perennials allow them to reach soil nutrients and moisture not available to grasses and herbaceous plants.
  • Industrial Crop: Pesticide  Many plants provide natural pesticides.
  • Management: Coppice  Cut to the ground repeatedly - resprouting vigorously. Non-destructive management systems maintaining the soil organic carbon.
  • Minor Global Crop  These crops are already grown or traded around the world, but on a smaller scale than the global perennial staple and industrial crops, The annual value of a minor global crop is under $1 billion US. Examples include shea, carob, Brazil nuts and fibers such as ramie and sisal.

References

Temperature Converter

Type a value in the Celsius field to convert the value to Fahrenheit:

Fahrenheit:

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Propagation

Seed - pre-soak for 12 hours in warm water and then sow early spring in a greenhouse[78, 133]. The seed usually germinates in 1 - 2 months at 20°c[133]. When large enough to handle, prick the seedlings out into individual pots and grow them on in the greenhouse for their first winter. Plant them out in late spring or early summer, after the last expected frosts. Cuttings of half-ripe wood, June/July in a frame. High percentage[78]. Cuttings of mature wood of the current seasons growth, autumn, in a sheltered position outdoors. Takes 12 months[78]. Suckers in spring just before new growth begins[200]. Layering in spring .

Other Names

If available other names are mentioned here

Found In

Countries where the plant has been found are listed here if the information is available

Weed Potential

Right plant wrong place. We are currently updating this section. Please note that a plant may be invasive in one area but may not in your area so it’s worth checking.

An invasive weed in Connecticut (false indigo): Potentially invasive, banned and Washington (indigobush) Class B noxious weed/noxious weed seed and plant quarantine

Conservation Status

IUCN Red List of Threatened Plants Status : This taxon has not yet been assessed.

Related Plants
Latin NameCommon NameHabitHeightHardinessGrowthSoilShadeMoistureEdibleMedicinalOther
Amorpha canescensLead PlantShrub1.2 2-9  LMSNDM223
Amorpha nanaDwarf Indigobush, Dwarf false indigo, Dwarf IndigoShrub0.6 4-8 MLMSNDM012
Sasamorpha borealis Bamboo3.0 6-9  LMHSM10 

Growth: S = slow M = medium F = fast. Soil: L = light (sandy) M = medium H = heavy (clay). pH: A = acid N = neutral B = basic (alkaline). Shade: F = full shade S = semi-shade N = no shade. Moisture: D = dry M = Moist We = wet Wa = water.

 

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Readers comment

   Thu Jul 17 2008

thanks for providing so much information. this has been the most informative website that i've come across so far and it's been very helpful

Bálint Czúcz   Tue Apr 21 2009

In Hungary this is one of the most noxious weeds in riverine habitats, and the vast stands are often used by bee-keepers to produce a quite delicious honey. In restauration plans Amorpha stands are sometimes grazed by grey cattle after a mechanical treatment. This is said to prevent Amorpha thickets from regeneration, and as far as I know, there have been no cases of cattle poisonining.

   Jul 29 2011 12:00AM

We use this at Spring Valley Ecofarms for forage and erosion control. It is used in China for the same purpose. It makes a great intercropping species for farms and makes a GREAT hedgerow that is easily managed with a sickle mower/hedgetrimmer. It is a nitrogen fixer and is decent forage for cattle. It's of very similar quality as Rubinia pseudoacacia. It's native across most of the United States. Also the seeds smell amazing, like anise or sweet tea. See: Forage value of Mediterranean deciduous woody fodder species and its implication to management of silvo-pastoral systems for goats, T. G. Papachristou and V. P. Papanastasis, 1994

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