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.

Family:               FABACEAE        (Pea family)

In the narrow sense, as the family has been split into 3, Caesalpiioideae and Mimosoideae are now independent families.

Name Derivation:

  • 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.

Flowers:

Small mauve/pink and white, pea-shaped flowers.

Borne in profusion on short racemes.

Plants in flower are very showy.

Colour:                               White and pink/mauve.

Flowering Months:          Nov – Mar.

Fragrance:                        Scented.

Foliage:

  • Evergreen.
  • 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.

Fruit:

  • Long (5 cm), narrow (.5 cm), cylindrical pods (Feb – Jul).
  • The pods turn brown and when ripe they explosively split and twist spirally.

 Bark:                                 Grey-brown.

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.

Care:

  • 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:                Hardy, but protect young plants.

Water Requirements:          Requires regular water during  summer.

Light Requirements:        Full sun but will grow in partial shade.

Roots:                                  The roots are not aggressive.

Birds:

  • Insect-eating birds are attracted to the insects that visit these trees.

Butterflies:

  • Indigofera species are known to be host to many butterfly’s larva.

Bees:                                     Bees visit the flowers for nectar and pollen.

 Medicinal:

  • The roots were used to treat intestinal worms.

Poisonous:                       Not poisonous.

Notes of interest:

  • Plants were previously incorrectly sold as Indigofera cylindrica and then Indigofera fruticosa.

Natural Distribution:

  • Found in the EC and  KZN.
  • Endemic to South Africa.

Natural Habitat:

  • Savanna- bushveld and forest.
  • Grows on rock outcrops and rocky hill slopes, often with other trees.