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Indigofera hendecaphylla - Jacq.

Common Name Creeping indigo, spicate indigo, trailing indigo
Family Fabaceae
USDA hardiness 10-12
Known Hazards Some strains of this species have leaves and seeds that are highly hepatotoxic[310 ]. The leaves of Indigofera hendecaphylla, possibly only of tetraploid forms originally from Sri Lanka, contain per 100 g dry matter 0.1 - 0.5 g indospicine (2,7-diamino-7-amino-heptanoic acid) while the seeds contain 0.1 - 2 g. Indospicine is a specific antagonist of arginine, interfering with its synthesis and incorporation into proteins and with the synthesis of DNA. Indospicine is highly toxic to chicken, rabbits, pigs, goats, sheep, cattle and horses. In small doses it causes loss of vitality and abortion in cattle and goats. Indospicine is especially dangerous to horses, which relish plants containing it and eat them preferentially[310 ]..
Habitats Disturbed grassland; cultivated areas and waste places; at elevations up to 2,700 metres, but most commonly below 700 metres, in Africa[310 , 328 ].
Range Tropical Africa - widely distributed, including Madagascar; through tropical Asia to New Guinea.
Edibility Rating    (0 of 5)
Other Uses    (4 of 5)
Weed Potential No
Medicinal Rating    (0 of 5)
Care (info)
Tender Well drained soil Moist Soil Full shade Semi-shade Full sun
Indigofera hendecaphylla Creeping indigo, spicate indigo, trailing indigo

Indigofera hendecaphylla Creeping indigo, spicate indigo, trailing indigo


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Indigofera hendecaphylla is a sub-erect shrub let growing about 40 - 100 cm tall. It has creeping stems of up to 2 m long and it roots at the nodes. It can be found in tropical Africa. The plant can be used as a ground cover and green manure. It is used as a cover crop in plantations of rubber, sisal, oil palm, and tea. It is fairly resistant to drought and shade. It has symbiotic relationship with certain soil bacteria which form nodules on the roots and fix atmospheric nitrogen.

Physical Characteristics

 icon of manicon of shrub
Indigofera hendecaphylla is a SHRUB growing to 0.5 m (1ft 8in) by 0.5 m (1ft 8in) at a fast rate.
See above for USDA hardiness. It is hardy to UK zone 10.
It can fix Nitrogen.
It is noted for attracting wildlife.
Suitable for: light (sandy), medium (loamy) and heavy (clay) soils, prefers well-drained soil and can grow in nutritionally poor soil. Suitable pH: mildly acid and neutral soils and can grow in very acid soils.
It can grow in full shade (deep woodland) semi-shade (light woodland) or no shade. It prefers dry or moist soil and can tolerate drought.

UK Hardiness Map US Hardiness Map


Indigofera anceps Vahl ex Poir. Indigofera bolusii N.E.Br. Indigofera endecaphylla Jacq. Indigofera

Plant Habitats

Edible Uses

None known

References   More on Edible Uses

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.

None known

References   More on Medicinal Uses

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Other Uses

Green manure  Soil stabilization

Agroforestry Uses: Indigofera hendecaphylla provides a good soil cover and smothers weeds. In tea estates in Sri Lanka it was the most popular green manure and cover crop. In Indonesia and Peninsular Malaysia it is used as a cover crop in rubber, sisal, oil palm and tea plantations; in Africa in coffee plantations[310 ]. Its maximum effect as a green manure is reached when the cover crop is incorporated in the soil when still green and flowering has started. Green manure crops produce 4.5 - 25 tonnes per hectare of green material. In trials in Indonesia Indigofera hendecaphylla has produced a green matter yield of 3.0 tonnes per hectare 3 months after planting, containing 10 kg nitrogen and 3 kg phosphorus. After 6 months the green matter yield was 18 tonnes, containing 86 kg nitrogen and 21 kg phosphorus[310 ]. A cover crop of Indigofera hendecaphylla controls erosion effectively on hilly and undulating land even under heavy rainfall, and is considered more effective than Clitoria ternatea. Few weeds, except some grasses, can grow through this cover and, once established, a reduction in weeding costs may be anticipated. Weeds such as Mikania spp. and Convolvulus spp. can cause some trouble[310 ]. Other Uses: None known

Special Uses

Attracts Wildlife  Ground Cover  Nitrogen Fixer

References   More on Other Uses

Cultivation details

Indigofera hendecaphylla is a plant mainly of the tropical lowlands, where it thrives at elevations below 700 metres, though can also be found ascending to about 2,500 metres. It grows best in areas with a mean annual temperature of 16 - 27°c and a mean annual rainfall in the range 600 - 1,500mm, but may also be found in wetter locations receiving up to 4,000mm[310 ]. In cultivation, the plant is fairly resistant to drought and shade[310 ]. Under heavy shade however, such as in old rubber plantations, growth is poor[310 ]. It performs best on clay soils, but grows on various soil types, including sandy soils, with a pH of 5.0 - 7.7. It is tolerant of poor, moderately acid, phosphorus-deficient soils[310 ]. Soil covers of Indigofera hendecaphylla are notorious for harbouring snakes and leeches[310 ]. Seedlings develop a strong taproot which assists in loosening the soil[310 ]. When cuttings are used plant growth remains very low, the cover rarely exceeding 12 cm in height. A fair cover can be formed in 6 months and a continuous even cover in a year from planting[310 ]. The plants send out trailing stems which, under favourable conditions, may attain a length of 2 metres, producing numerous adventitious roots at the nodes. As the plants mature they become taller and at 2 years of age they are usually about 30 - 40cm tall. Vigorous regrowth occurs at the start of the rainy season[310 ]. Once established, Indigofera hendecaphylla is self-sowing[310 ]. 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[755 ]. Flowers Summer to Winter. Attracts bees, butterflies or other insects.

References   Carbon Farming Information and Carbon Sequestration Information

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Plant Propagation

Seed - it has a hard seedcoat and may benefit from scarification before sowing in order to speed up and improve germination. This can usually be done by pouring a small amount of nearly boiling water on the seeds (being careful not to cook them!) and then soaking them for 12 - 24 hours in warm water. By this time they should have imbibed moisture and swollen - if they have not, then carefully make a nick in the seedcoat (being careful not to damage the embryo) and soak for a further 12 hours before sowing. To obtain a good distribution of the seed it is mixed with sand or filtered dry soil at a ratio of seed to sand of 1 : 4 before sowing. If planted in rows 60cm apart the seed rate is about 3.3 kg/ha[310 ]. Stem cuttings[310 ]. Cuttings of about 20cm long are planted at a spacing of 60cm x 60cm with 5 cuttings per hole[310 ].

Other Names

If available other names are mentioned here

creeping indigo, spicate indigo, trailing indigo, añil rastrero - Spanish

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.

Conservation Status

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

Related Plants
Latin NameCommon NameHabitHeightHardinessGrowthSoilShadeMoistureEdibleMedicinalOther
Indigofera arrectaBengal Indigo, Java indigo, Natal indigoPerennial2.0 10-12 MLMHNM224
Indigofera cassioides Shrub3.5 8-11  LMNM111
Indigofera decoraChinese indigoShrub1.0 5-7 MLMNM213
Indigofera hebepetala Shrub1.2 7-10  LMNM101
Indigofera heteranthaIndigo BushShrub3.0 6-9  LMNDM101
Indigofera kirilowiiKirilow's indigo, IndigoShrub1.5 5-7 MLMNM01 
Indigofera pseudotinctoriaIndigoShrub1.0 6-10 MLMNM10 
Indigofera suffruticosaAnil Indigo, Anil de pastoPerennial1.5 10-12 FLMHSNDM024
Indigofera tinctoriaIndigo, True Indigo, dye indigoShrub2.0 5-12 FLMHSNM224

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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Botanical References


Links / References

For a list of references used on this page please go here
A special thanks to Ken Fern for some of the information used on this page.

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