Persistence Pays Off, Part Two



Mud, rock, and poison ivy.

That’s what I stepped into and on and over and around one recent morning, down by the Potomac, while trying to photograph wild blue indigo (Baptisia australis, Fabaceae).


As I wrote around this time last year, I saw flower buds in this stand of plants in 2014, but then there was a bit of a flood and the plants were wiped out. Then, in 2015, I totally missed seeing the flowers, though I did see the seedpods.


I wasn’t going to miss it three years in a row. Despite an extraordinarily rainy May I’ve trudged out to this area about once a week, then every day or two as I saw the buds developing. The river is running really high, lapping at the rocks where the plants are growing, but it hasn’t covered them yet, though as it turns out the bedrock terraces of the Potomac gorge are exactly the habitat this species loves, so the occasional flood doesn’t bother it at all.


Wild blue indigo is listed as S2/threatened in Maryland, so finding a big, healthy stand is kinda special. (It’s also threatened in Indiana and endangered in Ohio.) Mostly wild blue indigo grows in Oklahoma and Kansas, with a few occurrences in nearby parts of Texas, Arkansas, and Missouri. According to BONAP’s North American Plant Atlas, it is present but rare in about a dozen states east of the Mississippi River.




I was quite excited to find this on June 6, 2014:


It was on one of those rock formations that juts into the river. These formations are often covered in poison ivy, but almost always worth the effort. Anyway, these were the only buds in a large stand of the plants.  I made a note to go back a week later and photograph the flowers.

And then, there was a flood.  When I returned, the waters were completely covering the rocks.  A week after that, I went again, and… nothing.  The flood waters were gone, but so were the plants.

I know this plant, because I grew it at my old house.  It’s Baptisia australis (blue false indigo, blue wild indigo), a member of the Fabaceae.  I was excited because it’s threatened in Maryland.

This year, I’ve kept an eye on that rock formation.  Nothing.  Then nothing.  Then nothing… then, on June 10, I decided enough of this game, I’m going out there anyway, poison ivy or no (and boy was there a lot of it).

And I saw this:


Yep.  Seedpods.  No doubt that this is B. australis, but darn it, two years in a row I’ve missed seeing the flowers!