False Indigo | River Locust

False Indigo | River Locust


Amorpha fruticosa

Plant for the vanilla cones of purple flowers, for the free supply of nitrogen, for coppiced mulch, and for the name River Locust!

Hardy from Zones 4-9. Up to 14 feet tall.

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Amorpha has a few common names, such as Blue False Indigo, False Indigo Bush, and Desert False Indigo. After spending more time with Amorpha, we prefer the name River Locust. Our streambanks host lots of River Locust and we’ve interplanted a few into insectary beds through annual gardens. This shrub, with help of bacteria, turns atmospheric nitrogen into soil nitrogen, and bounces back from coppicing for mulch or animal bedding. River Locust is a natural insecticide but the tall conical flowers attract beneficial insects with blue-purple colors and a scent reminiscent of vanilla. For this reason, it’s cultivated as an ornamental. This is one of our favorite agroforestry plants!

The many-named shrub pops up all over Turtle Island, from the very west to the very east as well as northern Mexico and southeast Canada. River Locust, or Indigobush if you prefer, adapts well to sunny edges and woodland shade. The roots are amazingly far-reaching for helping hold soil or supporting it as a shelterbelt for strong winds. The fruits can be crushed for oil and the plant can be pressed into small amounts of blue dye, but we haven’t tried any of this. We’re too busy admiring the flowers and leguminous leaves.

We got our first plants from our good friends at Edible Acres, and we now propagate from loads of seed, root divisions, and tip layering.