Borrego Sun - Since 1949

Nature Watch: "Indigobush"


Last updated 9/14/2023 at 10:55am

For most of the year, this common plant to the Colorado Desert attracts little attention.

It's pale, gray-green leaves tend to blend with the surrounding drab colors of the desert, but that all changes during a few glorious weeks in the spring when it bursts into brilliant colors as tiny indigo wildflowers emerge.

Known as Schott's Indigo-bush or Schott's dalea, this plant is a member of the pea family and commonly found in Anza-Borrego Desert State Park.

This native perennial is a bushy shrub that grows to a maximum of about six feet in height, with slim, gray-green leaves and spines along the branches.

The spring bloom, however, is glorious as the plant becomes one of the showiest in the desert. Tiny, bright blue or purple, pea-like flowers emerge to transform this normally drab shrub into a breathtaking beauty, generally between March and May in lower portions of the desert below 2,000 feet.

While there are several species of Indigo-bush, this particular plant is relatively rare, however common where found, and that includes Anza-Borrego.

This year's abundant rains produced an exceptional wildflower display, including the indigo-bush that attracted wildflower lovers in places such as Coyote Canyon, Palm Canyon, the park Visitor Center, sandy washes adjacent to Yaqui Pass, Tamarisk Grove, Fish Creek and many areas along S-2.

The indigo-bush is sometimes mistaken for a smoketree because of the similarity in coloration and blooms. While related, smoketrees, grow to 25 feet and blooms later from April to July.

The tiny flowers of the Indigo-bush are popular with hummingbirds and small rodents looking for nectar or seeds.

The flowers are also host to bees and several butterfly and moth species, including the white-lined sphinx and the delicate, Burns' buckmoth.

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