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Identification and Management of Creeping Indigo, a Common Florida Weed Toxic to Livestock

Introduction

Creeping indigo (Indigofera spicata) is a common Florida weed that has properties that are toxic to livestock, especially horses.  As its name implies, creeping indigo grows very close to the grown in a sprawling manner.  This makes it difficult to spot in a pasture if it is not flowering or has not yet set seed.  The taproot of creeping indigo is perennial but the plant reproduces mostly by seed.  The plant favors poor site conditions and is often found in areas of the pasture with poor perennial grass establishment.  This blog focuses on the identification and management of creeping indigo.  For a description of the symptoms associated with creeping indigo toxicity in horses, please see the link below in blue.

Creeping Indigo, A Poisonous Plant of Concern in Florida Pastures

Figure 1. Creeping indigo in the landscape. Note its prostrate growth habit and the poor site conditions that favor its growth.

Identification

Leaves:  Compound with 5 to 7 leaflets.  Both leaves and leaflets are alternate with numerous appressed hairs.

Figure 2. Leaves and flowers of creeping indigo.

Flowers:  Pink/purple bourne on stalks that originate at the leaf base.

Figure 3. Flowers of creeping indigo arising from the leaf axils.

Figure 4. Flowers of creeping indigo arising from the leaf axils.

Seed pods:  Formed in downward facing clusters.  Stiff and pointed.

Figure 5. Seed pods of creeping indigo.

Root:  Taproot

The taproot of creeping indigo.

Management

Given its prostrate growth habit, mowing to remove seed heads is not an effective control strategy.  Pulling by hand can be laborious and ineffective if the taproot is not completely removed.  Herbicides can be used effectively for control.  For a list of effective herbicides please see the link below in blue.

Weed Mangement in Pastures and Rangeland

References

MacKay, R., Jennings, E., Sellers, B., Ferrell, J., and House, A. 2018. Creeping Indigo, A Poisonous Plant of Concern in Florida Pastures. UF/IFAS Extension. Publication # SS-AGR-395. https://edis.ifas.ufl.edu/ag399

Sellers, B. A.  2019.  Weed Management in Pastures and Rangeland. UF/IFAS Extension. Publicaiton # SS-AGR-08. https://edis.ifas.ufl.edu/pdffiles/WG/WG00600.pdf

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