An attractive, evergreen, large shrub or small tree, Indigofera jucunda is a show stopper when in flower. With a multitude of clusters of small, pink and white flowers and soft form it brings a touch of femininity into the garden. Ideal for creating tree groves in small gardens.
Sub-family: PAPILLIONOIDEAE (Sweet Pea family)
The family Fabacea has been split into 3 sub-families. Caesalpiioideae, Mimosoideae and Papillionoideae
- Indigofera – bearing indigo, a blue dye that is obtained from several species of this genus.
- jucunda – from the Latin word jucundus, meaning pleasant or pleasing.
Common Names: River indigo, showy indigo (Eng), rivierverfbos, pronkverfbos (Afr), umsipane (Xho), and umnukambida (Zul).
SAF Number: 226.4
Form: A large shrub or small, graceful tree.
Size: 2 – 4 m (–7 m) by 2 – 3 m.
- Small mauve/pink and white, pea-shaped flowers.
- Borne in profusion on short racemes.
- Plants in flower are very showy.
Colour: White and pink.
Flowering Months: Nov – Mar.
The blueish green leaves of Indigofera jucunda are pinnate, up to 10 cm long and alternately arranged on the stems.
- Bluish green leaves are pinnately compound to 10 cm long.
- Leaflets are ovate to elliptical, 4 – 7 pairs and a terminal leaflet.
- Leaf base may be heart shaped, 3 – 5 veined at base.
Thorns: No thorns.
- Long (5 cm), narrow (.5 cm), cylindrical pods (Feb – Jul).
- The pods turn brown and when ripe they explosively split and twist spirally.
A young Indigofera jucunda, River Indigo, growing in a garden in Saxonwold, Johannesburg.
In the Garden:
- A showy shrub or small tree that deserves a spot of honour in all gardens.
- Indigofera jucunda can be used to great effect to soften a small courtyard.
- Can be used as a screen or in a mixed shrubbery.
- An ideal plant to provide a bit of height in narrow spaces.
- A wildlife friendly tree, attracting insects and birds.
- It is a good subject for a large pot or planter on a patio, provided it gets enough water.
- Indigofera jucunda should make a lovely bonsai subject.
- Flowers last well as cut flowers in a vase as part of a floral arrangement.
- Initially quick growing, up to 1 metre per year.
Soil Needs: Most soil types, rich garden soil for best results.
- A low maintenance plant.
- Feed with organic fertilizer and mulch with compost.
- May be pruned to shape if necessary.
- Protect young plants against the cold in winter.
Cold Hardiness: Semi-tender, but mature plants withstand a fair amount of frost.
Water Requirements: Requires regular water during summer.
Light Requirements: Full sun or partial shade.
The attractive clusters of flowers make Indigofera jucunda a garden winner.
Indigofera jucunda attract insects, which in turn attract eating birds, like the Bar-throated Apalis.
Roots: The roots are not aggressive.
- Insect-eating birds are attracted to the insects that visit these trees.
Insects and Butterflies:
- Bees visit the flowers.
- Many butterfly species larva are known to feed on Indigofera plants .
- The roots were used to treat intestinal worms.
Poisonous: Not poisonous.
Notes of interest:
- These plants have previously incorrectly been called Indigofera cylindrica and Indigofera fruticosa.
- Found in the EC and KZN.
- Endemic to South Africa.
- Savanna- bushveld and forest.
- Grows on rock outcrops and rocky hill slopes, often with other trees.
© Malcolm Dee Hepplewhite & Witkoppen Wildflower Nursery, (Text and Photographs) 2012 & 2018.