Indigofera schimperi

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Foliage (pinnate leaves) and inflorescences.

Perennial decumbent sub-shrub.


Perennial decumbent sub-shrub (Dichanthium aristatum cv. Floren at right)

A trial planting in northern Australia.

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Scientific name

Indigofera schimperi Jaub. & Spach

Subordinate taxa:
Indigofera schimperi Jaub. & Spach var. baukeana (Vatke) J.B. Gillett
Indigofera schimperi Jaub. & Spach var. schimperi


Indigofera baukeana Vatke
Indigofera oblongifolia sensu Brenan
Indigofera tettensis Klotzsch


Family: Fabaceae (alt. Leguminosae) subfamily: Faboideae tribe: Indigofereae. Also placed in: Papilionaceae.

Common names

kapiyebiye (Malawi).

Morphological description

Perennial sub-shrub, decumbent, ascending or erect, 0.3–1.3 m tall, suckering from the roots during periods of good moisture.  Silvery indumentum on herbaceous stems, leaf rachises and inflorescences.  Leaves pinnate, comprising 5–10 leaflets inserted alternately along the rachis;  stipules linear-lanceolate, to 9 mm long, with dry membranous margins and fine, tapering tips;  rachis sub-cylindrical, channelled above, to 6 cm long, including a petiole of ±0.3 cm, prolonged up to 0.5 cm beyond lateral leaflets;  leaflets lanceolate-elliptic or obovate, apiculate, to 2.5 cm long and 2 cm wide, with fine appressed hairs on both surfaces (strigulose).  Inflorescence a many-flowered raceme to 20 cm long including a peduncle of 1–2 cm;  bracts reddish, ovate, subulate, ±1 mm long, caducous;  pedicels to 1 mm long, reflexed after flowering;  calyx white strigulose, 2–3 mm long;  lobes triangular, 1–2 times as long as the tube;  corolla very pale to deep pink or purplish, densely glistening yellow strigulose outside;  stamens 4–10 mm long.  Pods silky when young, straight, somewhat curved or bent sharply at the base, sub-tetragonal, to 28 mm long and ±2 mm wide, rather densely white strigulose, up to 12-seeded;  endocarp not spotted.  300,000–400,000 (–600,000) seeds/kg.

var. baukeana
Plants erect , 0.4–1.3 m tall.  Larger flowers (stamens 7–10 mm long), pods usually bent sharply at the base.
var. schimperi
Plants decumbent or ascending to 0.3 m (rarely erect to 1 m tall).  Smaller flowers (stamens 4–7 mm long).


var. baukeana
Native to:
Africa:  Kenya, Tanzania, Zimbabwe, Namibia.
Found in grassland, especially on black cotton soil, but showing less than preference than var. schimperi for places with impeded drainage.

var. schimperi
Native to:
Africa:  Angola, Botswana, Djibouti, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Kenya, Malawi, Mozambique, Namibia, Somalia, South Africa, Sudan, Swaziland, Tanzania, Uganda, Zambia, Zimbabwe
Asia:  Saudi Arabia, Yemen
Found in grassland, especially on black cotton soil and in other areas becoming swampy after rain, and where slightly saline, alluvial tracts near rivers.


Legume for long-term pastures and leys in sub-humid to semi-arid areas.


Soil requirements

Largely found on neutral to alkaline black, cracking clays.  Not adapted to acid soils.  Moderate salt tolerance, less than that of Macroptilium atropurpureum , M. lathyroides and Desmanthus subulatus.


Occurs in areas with annual rainfall of 250–1,100 mm, with uni- and bi-modal distribution, and dry season to 8 months.  Extremely drought tolerant, but also tolerant of temporary waterlogging and presumably short term flooding.


Natural distribution extends from about 18ºN in the Sudan to 26ºS in South Africa.  It occurs from near sea level to 2,100 m asl, with different ecotypes extending over a range of environments with average annual temperature ranging from 17–26ºC.


No information available.

Reproductive development

Flowers March-April in the southern hemisphere subtropics, and again in spring after frost.  Indigofera spicata Forsk., another member of section Alternifoliae, is cleistogamous .  I. schimperi appears to behave similarly, judging by the uniformity of plants within an accession .


Regrows rapidly after cutting and grazing.


No information available.


Guidelines for the establishment and management of sown pastures.


Establishment is variable especially on clay soils.  The seed size is small and it flows freely and falls into the surface mulch .  Emergence from seed sown deeper than 2–3 cm is poor and is generally slower than for other legumes such as Desmanthus.  Emerged seedlings have a high rate of survival.


No information available.

Compatibility (with other species)

I. schimperi competes poorly as a seedling with a range of introduced and native grasses, but once established has a high survival rate and a long plant life.  Seedling recruitment often takes 2–3 years but is then adequate to maintain and increase plant densities.  It has a strong lateral root system and survives and regrows under severe moisture stress.  It is relatively unpalatable and for this reason can dominate pastures if grazing is not controlled.

Companion species

Grasses:  Chloris gayana , Cenchrus ciliaris , Bothriochloa spp., Dichanthium spp.

Pests and diseases

No information available.

Ability to spread

Although it has no apparent characteristics that will aid spread it is a highly persistent and productive legume and sets seed even under severe moisture stress.  Also it has this ability to sucker from its extensive lateral root system.

Weed potential

It has significant weed potential mainly because of its high survival and being unpalatable to grazing livestock.  Commercialisation has been withdrawn in Queensland, Australia and its removal from experimental sowings is being recommended.

Feeding value

Nutritive value

Crude protein content can vary from <10% in the stem to >20% in the leaf.  ADF ranged from 28% (leaf) to 36% (stem ).


Poor palatability but is eaten under some conditions.  There are some differences in palatability between accessions with CPI 73608 and CPI 16055 sometimes being grazed more readily than the other accessions.


I. schimperi contains no indospicine and no other toxicities are known.

Production potential

Dry matter

In experimental plots, annual yields of up to 4,500 kg/ha have been measured although growth is sometimes slow in the establishment year.

Animal production

Steer liveweight-gains over 2 grazing periods at Gayndah in Queensland, Australia ranged from 0.27–0.38 kg/head/day compared with 0.41–0.56 kg/head/day for other legumes.


No information available.

Seed production

No information available.

Herbicide effects

Susceptible to a range of broadleaf herbicides including metsulphuron-methyl and fluroxypyr although results can be variable.



Other comments

Tested as a pasture legume on clay soils in central Queensland, Australia but withdrawn from commercialisation because of poor acceptance by grazing stock and the high risk of legume dominance.

Selected references

Clem, R.L., Brandon, N.J., Conway, M.J., Esdale, C.R and Jones, R.M. (2001) Early stage evaluation of tropical legumes on clay soils at three sites in central and southern inland Queensland. Tropical Agriculture Technical Memorandum No. 7. CSIRO, Australia.
Clem, R.L. and Hall, T.J. (1994) Persistence and productivity of tropical pasture legumes on three cracking clay soils (Vertisols) in north-eastern Queensland. Australian Journal of Experimental Agriculture, 34, 161–171.
Gillett, J.B., Polhill, R.M., and Verdcourt, B. (1971). Leguminosae (Part 3) Subfamily Papilionoideae. In:  Milne-Redhead, E. and Polhill, R.M. (eds) Flora of Tropical East Africa. pp. 313–314. (Crown Agents for Overseas Governments and Administrations: London.).
Jones, R.M. (1998) Evaluation of a range of tropical legumes on two clay soils in south east inland Queensland. Tropical Agriculture Technical Memorandum No. 2. CSIRO, Australia.
Jones, R.M., Bishop, H.G., Clem, R.L., Conway, M.J., Cook, B.G., Moore, K. and Pengelly, B.C. (2000) Measurements of nutritive value of a range of tropical legumes and their use in legume evaluation. Tropical Grasslands, 34, 78–90.
Jones, R.M., Brandon, N.J. and Conway, M.J. (1996) Indigofera schimperi - a promising legume for clay soils. Tropical Grasslands, 30, 138.
Jones, R.M and Rees, M.C. (1997) Evaluation of tropical legumes on clay soils at four sites in southern inland Queensland. Tropical Grasslands, 31, 95–106.
Strickland, R.W, Lambourne, L.J. and Ratcliffe, D. (1986) The palatability, feeding value and apparent toxicity of 150 legume species fed to rats. Genetic Resources Communication No. 10. CSIRO Division of Tropical Crops and Pastures, Brisbane.

Internet links



Country/date released


None released to date.      

Promising accessions

Promising accessions



CPI 16055    Lower growing type that was more readily grazed than the other I. schimperi.
CPI 73608    Tall open type grazed in preference to CPI 52621 and CPI 69495.
CPI 52621 Zimbabwe   
CPI 69495 Zimbabwe