Excerpts from Jim Conrad's
Naturalist Newsletter

INDIGOFERA TRITA ssp. SCABRA, flowers and fruit

from the April 3, 2016 Newsletter issued from Hacienda Chichen Resort beside Chichén Itzá Ruins, central Yucatán MÉXICO
A LITTLE-DOCUMENTED INDIGO SUBSPECIES

At the edge of a trail through the woods a leafy bush with several slender, weak stems arising from the base reached shoulder high, as shown below:

INDIGOFERA TRITA ssp. SCABRA, habit

The pinnately compound leaves could have been those of Wisteria, a twining member of the Bean Family up North, as shown below:

INDIGOFERA TRITA ssp. SCABRA, leaf

The flowers and fruits confirmed that we had a Bean Family member, shown at the top of this page.

In other words, the fruits are of the legume type, like regular green beans in a garden, and the flowers are "papilionaceous," like regular bean flowers . That means that they consist of five petals of which the top is the largest, then there are two side petals called "wings," and the bottom two petals are fused along their common margin to form a scoop-like structure called the "keel, all shown closer up, below:

INDIGOFERA TRITA ssp. SCABRA.flower from side

In that picture, one unusual feature is that the top petal, or keel, is red-striped, like peppermint candy. The stripes can be admired more fully from behind, as shown below:

INDIGOFERA TRITA ssp. SCABRA

From the beginning the bush looked to me like a kind of indigo, genus Indigofera, of which we've seen several species. For example, you might compare the above pictures with those of the Lindheimer's Indigo we saw in Texas, at http://www.backyardnature.net/n/h/indigo.htm

Four indigo species are listed for the Yucatan. Of those four, our plant best matches INDIGOFERA TRITA ssp. SCABRA. The identification is complicated not only by the dearth of information and pictures of the subspecies scabra, which we have, but also because the plant's taxonomy is in a mess. Leaves of the basic species are trifoliate -- bear only three leaflets -- in some places earning the plant the English name Three-leaved Indigo, but our subspecies scabra bears up to nine leaflets. Our Yucatan botanists use the name Indifogera trita ssp. scabra, and regard that name as synonymous with Indigofera jamaicensis, which is preferred by folks at the University of Mexico. The online Invasive Species Compendium lists 23 such names as synonyms for the species, and describes its distribution as most of the Earth's tropical regions, especially Africa, its homeland being uncertain. Our subspecies scabra is limited to our region.

All we can do here is to document that what we've photographed exists in the forests of the Hacienda Chichen estate, and let some future expert looking for pictures of Indigofera trita ssp. scabra find ours, and tell us what they think.