The name Indigofera enneaphylla L., has been incorrectly applied to this species. As now lectotypified, this name is an illegitimate synonym of Psoralea pinnata L.[
Hedysarum prostratum L.
Indigofera dominii Eichler
Indigofera enneaphylla L.
Indigofera tsiangiana F.P.Metcalf
Common Name: Birdsville indigo
Indigofera linnaei is a perennial plant with prostrate, sometimes ascending, much-branched stems that can become more or less woody, especially near the base, and persist. It can grow 20 - 90cm tall[
]. The plant grows from a long taproot around 30cm long and 5mm wide[
The plant is harvested from the wild for local use as a medicine[
]. In times of need, the plant is harvested from the wild for its seed which are an emergency source of food[
It causes however a disease of horses but is obviously suitable for feeding sheep. There are some further reports in the literature on species of Indigofera, mostly of subg. Indigofera, which had been or are being occasionally cultivated or recommended for cultivation. That is true e.g. for I. longiracemosa Boiv. ex Baill. in Bull. Soc. Linn. Paris 1 (1883) 399 (Madagascar, S India, E Africa), I. disperma L., Syst. nat. ed. 12 (1768) 232 (South America) and I. diphylla Vent., Choix pl. 5 (1804) 300, t. 30 (W Africa), which had been grown locally or sporadically as dye plants in Java resp. the Antilles or in W Africa. For soil conservation the cultivation has been reported in North America for I. miniata Ortega, Nov. pl. descr. dec. (1798) 98 (southern USA to Guatemala), in Japan for I. pseudo-tinctoria Matsum. in Bot. Mag., Tokyo 16 (1902) 62 (Japan, China) and has been recommended recently in the USA for I. leptosepala Nutt. in Torr. & Gray, Fl. N. Amer. 1 (1838) 298. As forage or green manure crops had been reported for Kenya I. schimperi Jaub. & Spach, Ill. pl. or. (1857) t. 484 (tropical and South Africa) and I. swaziensis Bolus in Trans. S. Afr. Phil. Soc. 16 (1906) 381 (South Africa), for Tanzania I. paniculata Pers., Syn. pl. 2 (1807) 325 (tropical Africa), for India I. linifolia (L.f.) Retz., Obs. bot. 4 (1786) 29 (NE Africa, S and SE Asia to Australia, subg. Sphaeridiophora Baker!). Other species recommended as forage crops or at least of potential importance for this purpose are I. sessiliflora DC., Prodr. 2 (1825) 228 (Sahel belt, Ethiopia, India), I. trifoliata L., Cent. Pl. 2 (1756) 29 (SE Asia to Australia), I. uniflora Buch.-Ham. ex Roxb., Fl. ind. ed. 2, 3 (1832) 374 (India) and I. medicaginea Welw. ex Baker in Oliv., Fl. trop. Afr. 2 (1871) 86 (tropical Africa)[
The plant is the cause of a horse disease known in Australia as 'Birdsville disease' but sheep and cattle can eat it apparently without any harmful results[
E. Asia - southern China (Yunnan, Sichuan, Hainan), Indian subcontinent, Myanmar, Thailand, Laos, Vietnam, Indonesia to New Guinea, Australia
Sandy ground near rivers or seashores, dry open places, sunny trailsides; at elevations from 100 - 700 metres, occasionally to 1,200 metres[
Indigofera species generally grow best in a sunny position, preferring a well-drained but moist soil[
]. Many of the species will also succeed in drier conditions and in poor soils.
This species has a symbiotic relationship with certain soil bacteria; these bacteria form nodules on the roots and fix atmospheric nitrogen. Some of this nitrogen is utilized by the growing plant but some can also be used by other plants growing nearby.
]. In times of famine the seeds are ground into a powder and eaten[
The juice of the plant is used as an antiscorbutic and diuretic. It is considered to be alterative in the treatment of old venereal affections[
Like many species within the family Fabaceae, once they have been dried for storage the seeds of this species may benefit from scarification before sowing in order to speed up and improve germination. This can usually be done by pouring a small amount of nearly boiling water on the seeds (being careful not to cook them!) and then soaking them for 12 - 24 hours in warm water. By this time they should have imbibed moisture and swollen - if they have not, then carefully make a nick in the seedcoat (being careful not to damage the embryo) and soak for a further 12 hours before sowing[
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