We’re in the Mood for Indigo

Tracking native plants as they bloom at different times from spring to fall is one of the best ways to enjoy Nature Boardwalk at Lincoln Park Zoo. The blue false indigo now flowering makes this week an ideal time to start, but hurry—the blooms will only hold their color for another week or so.

False indigo in bloom at Nature Boardwalk at Lincoln Park Zoo

Spectacular displays of mature false indigo are located on the north shore of the pond at Nature Boardwalk at Lincoln Park Zoo.

First planted as tiny 4-inch plugs in spring 2010 when Nature Boardwalk opened, this beautiful herbaceous perennial (Baptisia australis) is now firmly established in mature clumps standing 3–4 feet tall. The most impressive examples are located just south of the Peoples Gas Education Pavilion on the north shore of the pond. A smaller grouping can be found on the sunny, rocky slope in front of Carlson Cottage just south of Café Brauer.

Zoo horticulturists have also planted several baptisia cultivars, or variants, around the thriving prairie ecosystem site. These include a specially bred “Midnight” version with dark purple flowers. You’ll find examples of this cultivar on the hillside just north of the pavilion.

False indigo "Midnight" cultivar in bloom at Lincoln Park Zoo

The “Midnight” false indigo cultivar features bold, dark purple blossoms.

While their colorful blooms are fleeting, these plants will later stage an aesthetic second act if you miss this one.

“The flowers will be followed by beautiful, balloon-like seed pods that come around in the fall,” says Director of Horticulture Brian Houck. “So they’re ornamental in that season too.”

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