Indigofera tinctoria L.

Last updated: 19 June 2015

Scientific Name

Indigofera tinctoria L.


Indigofera bergii Vatke, Indigofera cinerascens DC., Indigofera houer Forssk., Indigofera indica Lam., Indigofera oligophylla Baker, Indigofera orthocarpa (DC.) O.Berg & C.F.Schmidt, Indigofera sumatrana Gaertn., Indigofera tinctoria Blanco, Indigofera tulearensis Drake. [1]

Vernacular Name

Malaysia Nila, tarum [2]
English Common indigo, Indian indigo, Bengal indigo, black henna, Ceylon indigo, Madras indigo, wild indigo [2][3]
China Mu lan, ta ching [3]
Indonesia Tom jawa, tarum alus, tarum kaju [2]
Thailand Khraam (General); na-kho (Karen, Mae Hong Son) [2]
Laos Khaam [2]
Philippines Tagung-tagung (Bisaya); taiom (Ilokano); taiung (Pampango) [2]
Cambodia Trôm [2]
Vietnam Chàm, chàm nhuôm [2]
Burkina Faso Garga [3]
Comoros Kamba unyo, mnyo [3]
Gabon Bilo [3]
Kenya Muarema [3]
Madagascar Aika, engatsy, engilavy, engitra, hengitra, ingetsea, oika, tapitsakondry [3]
Mali Gala, gara [3]
Niger Baba, laema, ,sini [3]
Somalia Cilaan-ari [3]
Tanzania Igangula, mnili, mnyuka [3]

Geographical Distributions

Indigofera tinctoria is distributed throughout the tropics and subtropics of Asia, Africa and the Americas; most of the species occur in Africa and the southern Himalayas. About 40 species are native to Southeast Asia and many others have been introduced. Many species are cultivated in all tropical regions. I. tinctoria is probably originated from Asia, but now its distribution is pantropical. [2]

This species are found on open, sunny places such as wasteland, road-sides, riverbanks and grassland, sometimes up to 2000 m above sea level and does not tolerate heavy rainfall and waterlogging. [2]

Botanical Description

I. tinctoria is a member of the Fabaceae (Leguminosae) family. It is an annual to perennial herb or subshrub that can reach up to 2 m tall. [4]

The stems are erect, copiously branched, and covered with appressed, whitish, and 2-branched hairs. [4]

The leaves are arranged spirally, imparipinnate. The stipules are narrowly triangular and 1.5–3 mm long whilst the petiole is up to 2 cm long with rachis up to 7 cm long. The stipels are narrowly triangular, up to 0.5 mm long with approximately 1 mm long petiolules. The leaflets are (3–)7–17(–21), elliptical to obovate, up to 23 × 12 mm, usually glabrous above, and thinly hairy below. [4]

The inflorescence is sessile, many-flowered axillary raceme up to 6 cm long but usually much shorter while the bracts are narrowly triangular and about 1 mm long, more or less persistent. [4]

The flowers are bisexual and papilionaceous with 1–1.5 mm long pedicel. The calyx is approximately 1 mm long with the tube about as long as the 5 triangular lobes, and is white appressed hairy. The corolla is about 4 mm long, standard ovate about 4 mm × 3.5 mm, whitish with reddish rays, wings with very short claws, pinkish, keel laterally spurred and coloured pink to red. The stamens are 10 with 4–5 mm long, upper one free and the other 9 united into a tube. The ovary is superior and 1-celled with long style. [4]

The fruit is a linear pod 20–35 mm long and about 2 mm wide and thick, straight or slightly curved, rounded in cross-section, brown when ripe and 7–12-seeded with slight constrictions between the seeds. [4]

The seeds are shortly oblong, approximately 2 mm × 1.5 mm, and rhombic in cross-section. [4]


No documentation

Chemical Constituent

No documentation

Plant Part Used

No documentation

Traditional Use

No documentation

Preclinical Data

No documentation

Clinical Data

No documentation


No documentation

Poisonous Management

No documentation

Line drawing


Figure 1: The line drawing of I. tinctoria [2]


  1. The Plant List. Ver1.1. Indigofera tinctoria L. [homepage on the Internet]. c2013 [updated 2010 Jul 14; cited 2015 June 9]. Available from:
  2. Lemmens RHMJ, Wessel-Riemens PC. Indigofera tinctoria L. In: Lemmens RHMJ and Wulijarni-Soetjipto N, editors. Plant Resources of South-East Asia No. 3: Dye and tannin producing plants. Wageningen, Netherlands: Pudoc Scientific Publisher, 1991; p. 81-83
  3. Quattrocchi U. CRC World Dictionary of Plant Names: Common names, scientific names, eponyms, synonyms, and etymology. Volume III E-L. Boca Raton, Florida: CRC Press; 2012. p. 569-570.
  4. PROTA4U. Indigofera tinctoria L. [homepage on the Internet]. No date [cited 2015 Jul 23]. Available from: