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Indigo flower
Indigo

Why would a beautiful white flowering prairie plant have a name that is a shade of blue? Wait and watch as the plant blooms from May to July. Look for a bushy plant that stands between 3 and 6 feet tall. The leaves are smooth and the flowers look like white peas or beans in clusters. The flowers are about 1-inch long. As the plant finishes blooming and begins to dry up, a blue dye or pigment is noticeable in many of the plants. A fruit pod forms and droops from the stalk. It will turn black as it dries.

Look for indigo or "Prairie False Indigo" in prairies, open woods, and vacant lots from Ontario Canada, south to Mississippi and Ohio. It also grows north to Minnesota and Nebraska and south to Texas.

Early settlers used this plant for many things like brushing horseflies off themselves in the fields while planting. The blue dye that can be extracted from the plant was also used. This plant is sometimes called the "shoofly" or "horsefly weed." Can you guess why?