Creeping indigo—a dangerous little exotic

A pretty flower hides potent toxicity

Sunday, February 21, 2016

By Kenneth Setzer

I often explore my lawn for interesting little flowers. There are some extremely tiny examples. One standout is this tiny pink orchid-like blossom. It is the flower of creeping indigo or lawn indigo (Indigofera spicata).

Native to parts of Africa, it is used as a ground cover to deter erosion, and as green manure. It also fixes nitrogen, a characteristic of its legume family, the Fabaceae.

Its harmless appearance belies toxicity however; one of its other names is horse killer. It is indeed toxic to some animals, but the details seem vague. Some dog breeds are susceptible, while others possibly less so. Neuro-muscular damage to horses from consuming creeping indigo has resulted in their euthanization.

At any rate, keep your quadrupeds away from it.


Creeping indigo, Indigofera spicata


Note finger for size comparison.

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