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Amorpha fruticosa
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Western False Indigo
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Amorpha fruticosa

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About Western False Indigo (Amorpha fruticosa) Amorpha fruticosa is a species of flowering plant in the legume family known by several common names, including desert false indigo and bastard indigobush. It is found throughout eastern Canada, northern Mexico, and most of the continental United States. In California it is native to the southwestern part of the state with scattered occurrences in the central valley. A. fruticosa grows as a hairy, thornless shrub which can reach 3 to 4 meters in height and spread to twice that in width. It is somewhat variable in morphology. The leaves are made up of many hairy, oval-shaped, spine-tipped leaflets. The flower cluster is a spike-shaped raceme of many flowers, each with a single purple petal and ten protruding stamens with yellow anthers. The fruit is a legume pod containing one or two seeds.

This plant likes moist (but not saturated) areas, and will spread wherever it finds suitable moisture. It is loosely branched and can become leggy with age; it needs plenty of room to spread out. Its spreading tendency and fibrous root system make it useful for bank stabilization. It is winter deciduous so will be less attractive for several months out of the year. It is the host plant for the Southern Dogface butterfly.
Plant Description
Plant Type

Max. Height
6 - 15 ft (1.8 - 4.6 m)

Rounded, Fountain, Spreading

Growth Rate

Winter Deciduous


Flower Color
Purple, Yellow

Flowering Season
Spring, Winter

Native Status

Natural Setting
Site Type
Stream edges, canyons, north facing slopes of southern California and scattered locations in the central valley

Part Shade, Sun

Elevation ?
-180' - 8177'

Annual Precip. ?
4.9" - 47.6"

Summer Precip. ?
0.18" - 2.85"

Coldest Month ?
33.5° F - 59.0° F

Hottest Month ?
60.6° F - 87.5° F

Humidity ?
1.41 vpd - 38.32 vpd

Soil Description
Tolerates a variety of soils

Soil PH
7.0 - 8.5

Soil Toxicity Tolerance
Tolerates Sodic Soil


Cold Tolerance(° F)
Tolerates cold to 30° F

Sunset Zones ?
1, 2*, 3*, 6*, 7*, 14*, 15*, 16*, 17*, 18*, 19*, 20*, 21*, 22*, 23*, 24*

Companion Plants
It inhabits similar areas to California Wild Rose (Rosa californica). Other companions could include Meadow Rue (Thalictrum fendleri), Snowdrop Bush (Styrax officinalis), Common Snowberry (Symphoricarpos albus), Yellow Monkeyflower (Mimulus guttatus), Western Azalea (Rhododendron occidentale), Brown Dogwood (Cornus glabrata) and Huckleberry (Vaccinum ovatum).

Wildlife Attracted
Butterlies, especially the Southern Dogface which will lay its eggs on this plant

Landscaping Information
Ease of Care
Very Easy

Water Requirement ?
Low, Moderate - High
Extremely Low
Very Low
Moderate - High

Seldom Used

Max. Summer Water ?
No Summer Water
Keep moist

Overly leggy growth can be pruned out in the winter when the plant is dormant

Propagation ?
Root divisions or layering..  For propagating by seed: No treatment; scarification may improve germination.

Common uses
Hedges, Butterfly Gardens

Nursery Availability
Commonly Available

Other Names
Common Names
False Indigo Bush, Desert False Indigo, Bastard Indigobush

Sources include: Wikipedia. All text shown in the "About" section of these pages is available under the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike License. Plant observation data provided by the participants of the California Consortia of Herbaria, Sunset information provided by Jepson Flora Project. Propogation from seed information provided by the Santa Barbara Botanical Garden from "Seed Propagation of Native California Plants" by Dara E. Emery. Sources of plant photos include CalPhotos, Wikimedia Commons, and independent plant photographers who have agreed to share their images with Calscape. Other general sources of information include Calflora, CNPS Manual of Vegetation Online, Jepson Flora Project, Las Pilitas, Theodore Payne, Tree of Life, The Xerces Society, and information provided by CNPS volunteer editors, with special thanks to Don Rideout. Climate data used in creation of plant range maps is from PRISM Climate Group, Oregon State University, using 30 year (1981-2010) annual "normals" at an 800 meter spatial resolution.

Links:   Jepson eFlora Taxon Page  CalPhotos  Wikipedia  Calflora

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