Creeping Indigo found in Monticello. TOXIC to Livestock!
The plant is a low growing legume with pink blooms somewhat like clover (First pic)and small bean like seed pods (second pic). Leaves contain seven to nine leaflets, and the prostrate stems creep along the soil surface. The plant can also form mats underneath a healthy pasture canopy as shown in http://www.volusia.org/core/fileparse.php/4179/urlt/Creeping-Indigo.pdf This will make it even more difficult to find if it migrates to Panhandle pastures.
Creeping indigo (Indigofera spicata) should not be confused with hairy indigo (Indigofera hirsuta). Hairy indigo can approach waist high, but creeping indigo will barely rise above the toe of your brogans.
Annual lespedeza (Lespedeza striata) (shown in third pic, mixed with centipede grass) is similar in appearance, but unrelated and non-toxic. Its prostrate growth habit is similar to creeping indigo, but its leaves are somewhat smaller and have only three leaflets. The stems of the common lespedeza plants I found across the sidewalk were also woodier than the stems of the creeping indigo.
Identification of any toxic plant is the first step in its control. For your next move, mechanical control may be a feasible option if the population is small when you find it. If you pull or hoe the plants, make sure you destroy any seeds as well as the plants. Seed can be viable surprisingly early and the stem and leaves remain toxic after they die and dry. The plant has a deep tap root, so mechanical control can be challenging.
Chemical control has not been established, but GrazonNext HL at 24 oz. per acre may be effective as it has good control of other legumes. Remember the dead plants in your pasture are still a threat. Manure from animals grazing treated pastures or hay from treated should not be used for compost.
Inspect your pastures and lawns for creeping indigo and other toxic plants. Your livestock and your neighbor’s livestock rely on your vigilance. If you suspect you have creeping indigo in your pastures, contact your local County Agent for assistance in identification and management.
This plant has been a problem in South and Central Florida and much good information on specifics of toxicity and symptoms .
Sharon Gamble. Creeping Indigo (Indigo spicata) – Toxic to Livestock http://www.volusia.org/core/fileparse.php/4179/urlt/Creeping-Indigo.pdf
Dr. Rob MacKay. Creeping Indigo Toxicity http://largeanimal.vethospitals.ufl.edu/2014/11/03/creeping-indigo-toxicity/
Sellers, Carlisle and Wiggins. South Florida Beef Forage Program. Creeping Indigo: A Small, Yet Lethal Plant http://sfbfp.ifas.ufl.edu/articles/article_2013_june.shtml
Please spread the word to fellow livestock owners and neighbors. Post it however you deem appropriate. This is a problem we want to avoid if at all possible.
Contact me if you have any questions.
Jefferson County Livestock and Natural Resources Agent
University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences
2729 West Washington
Monticello, FL 32344