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Indigofera suffruticosa - Mill.

Common Name Anil Indigo, Anil de pasto
Family Fabaceae
USDA hardiness 10-12
Known Hazards An aqueous extract of the fruit has an hepatotoxic effect and causes chromosome aberrations[310 ].
Habitats Dry to wet fields and thickets, often in waste ground, sometimes on exposed hillsides or on sandbars, sometimes a weed in cultivated ground, most commonly at low elevations, but extending to 1,500 metres[331 ].
Range S. America - Argentina, Paraguay, north to the Caribbean, through Central America to Mexico, Florida
Edibility Rating    (0 of 5)
Other Uses    (4 of 5)
Weed Potential No
Medicinal Rating    (2 of 5)
Care (info)
Tender Well drained soil Moist Soil Semi-shade Full sun
Indigofera suffruticosa Anil Indigo, Anil de pasto

Indigofera suffruticosa Anil Indigo, Anil de pasto


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Indigofera suffruticosa,commonly known in various names such as Guatemala indigo, small-leaved indigo, West Indian indigo, wild indigo, anil indigo, and anil de pasto, is a flowering plant growing up to 1 m tall which can be found in South America. it is an erect and branching shrub with pinnate leaves. The rootstock are woody while the stems are often woody but can also be herbaceous. It has been known as 'the king of dyes' due to its fascinating deep blue color. Medicinally, Anil indigo is applied to the bee and other insects stings to reduce pain and inflammation. Root decoction is used against stomach pain. The leaves are used for fever, and scrofula when combined with the bark of Philodendron chinense. Plant juice is used as a treatment for diarrhea.

Physical Characteristics

 icon of manicon of flower
Indigofera suffruticosa is an evergreen Perennial growing to 1.5 m (5ft) by 1.5 m (5ft) at a fast rate.
See above for USDA hardiness. It is hardy to UK zone 10.
It can fix Nitrogen.
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 semi-shade (light woodland) or no shade. It prefers dry or moist soil and can tolerate drought.

UK Hardiness Map US Hardiness Map


Indigofera anil L.

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.
Antibacterial  Antidiarrhoeal  Antiinflammatory  Diaphoretic  Febrifuge  Vermifuge

The plant finds some use in domestic medicine in Guatemala. Indigo is often applied to the stings of bees and other insects to reduce pain and inflammation, although its efficacy is somewhat doubtful[331 ]. A decoction of the roots is taken against stomach-ache[310 ]. A tincture of the roots and seeds in rum is used as a vermifuge[310 ]. The leaves are resolutive and sudorific[348 ]. An infusion of bruised leaves is used as a treatment for fever[310 ]. Combined with the leaves of Indigofera tinctoria and the bark of Phellodendron chinense, it is used as a medicine against scrofula[310 ]. The fresh leaves are used in a warm bath to act as a calmative[348 ]. The plant juice is used as a treatment for diarrhoea[310 ].

References   More on Medicinal Uses

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Other Uses

Dye  Green manure

Agroforestry Uses: Grown as a cover crop and green manure in coffee, rubber and tea plantations[310 ]. In South America it is one of the components of natural pastures developing after clearing rain forest[310 ]. A good cover of the plant can increase the nitrogen content of the soil considerably. In Sri Lanka for example, an increase from 3.7% to 5.3% in 4 years was found[310 ]. Other Uses: The plant is a major source of the blue dye indigo[331 ]. Plants contain the glucoside indican, which transforms into indoxyl (indigo-white) and glucose by enzymatic hydrolysis[310 ]. Indoxyl can then be oxidized to the dye indigo-blue[310 ]. It is perhaps just as well for Central America that the cultivation of indigo has largely been abandoned, since preparation of the dye was injurious to the health of persons employed in the industry. The freshly cut plants were immersed in large vats lined with bricks, such as may sometimes be discovered even now about Central American fincas. After fermentation had proceeded for some time, the plants were trampled by men in the tanks, after which the dye settled to the bottom of the water and was formed into small cakes that were later dried[331 ]. Indigo was formerly much planted in some parts of Guatemala, especially in the Oriente and along the Pacific foothills and plains, and some is grown even today, for dyeing native textiles. The indigo-coloured coats and trousers forming the costumes of the men of certain highland towns are most distinctive. As late as 1883 it was reported that 135 quintales (hundredweight) of indigo were exported from Guatemala.

Special Uses

Attracts Wildlife  Carbon Farming  Coppice  Ground Cover  Nitrogen Fixer

References   More on Other Uses

Cultivation details

Agroforestry Services: Contour hedgerow  Agroforestry Services: Nitrogen  Industrial Crop: Dye  Management: Coppice  Minor Global Crop

Succeeds in tropical and subtropical climates. Plants are not frost resistant[375 ]. Well adapted to fertile silty-sandy soils[375 ]. Succeeds in soils with low fertility[375 ]. Grows well in soils with a low pH[375 ]. Established plants are drought resistant[375 ]. 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 ]. Flowering Time: Late Winter/Early Spring Mid Spring Mid Winter. Bloom Color: Purple. Spacing: 6-8 ft. (1.8-2.4 m).

Carbon Farming

  • 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.
  • Industrial Crop: Dye  Botanical dyes replacing synthetic dyes (known as heavy polluters).
  • 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   Carbon Farming Information and Carbon Sequestration Information

Temperature Converter

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Plant Propagation

Seed - sowing is done either in seed-beds or directly into the field[310 ]. Seed Collecting: Allow pods to dry on plant; break open to collect seeds. Pre-soak the seed in warm water overnight for optimal germination[310 ]. Germination takes 4 - 6 days[310 ]. Seedlings quickly develop a deep root system and so, when a seed-bed is used the seedlings should be transplanted into their permanent positions within 4 - 6 weeks after sowing[310 ]. Stem cuttings are taken from well developed branches divided into 30 cm long pieces[310 ]. They are kept for 2 - 3 days in a cool place before planting out, 2 - 3 per hole. Rooting starts in the second week[310 ].

Other Names

If available other names are mentioned here

anil indigo, mexikanischer Indigostrauch - German, añil - Spanish, västindisk indigo - Swedish.

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 hendecaphyllaCreeping indigo, spicate indigo, trailing indigoShrub0.5 10-12 FLMHFSNDM004
Indigofera heteranthaIndigo BushShrub3.0 6-9  LMNDM101
Indigofera kirilowiiKirilow's indigo, IndigoShrub1.5 5-7 MLMNM01 
Indigofera pseudotinctoriaIndigoShrub1.0 6-10 MLMNM10 
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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