Shake, rattle, extol

Seedpods 1

Baptisia australis seedpods.

Fall’s loud and brassy flower show may have packed up and left but nobody bothered to tell the rhythm section. Seed heads of every shape and size are still shaking it up–none more rattlingly satisfying than Baptisia australis, a hardy perennial commonly called Blue false indigo or Blue wild indigo.

A native of the Northeastern U.S., this robust member of the pea family now also makes itself at home in Southern Ontario, courtesy of Mother Nature and savvy commercial growers. In late summer (or earlier in more southern regions), large, deep blue sweet pea-like flowers sprout from branched stems that can grow three feet or taller and spread 2 or 3 feet wide. The bright green, cartoon-like leaves are adorably attached in trios. The overall effect is of a delicacy akin to Disney’s sweet hippos in The Dance of the Hours.

But the plant’s last act, late in September, is the high point. Baptisia australis seedpods look like the mandibles of small, petrified aliens, up to three inches long, hard, hollow and mahogany-coloured. Inside, the small, smooth seeds are loose–free to start a commotion that’ll beat your best maraca.


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