Learn / Ask The Landscape Professional
Linda, could you help me identify this plant? It's leaves fold up at night. Thanks, Malcolm
Hi Malcolm. The plant you have on your patio could
be either a Wild Senna (Senna hebecarpa) or Cassia
(Senna marilandica). It's hard to tell the difference
between the two plants except at the time they
produce their seeds. The Senna hebecarpa seeds
fall out of its pod and the seeds of Senna marilandica
stay tightly enclosed within the seed pod. In either
case, it is a member of the Pea (Fabaceae) Family
and is native to east coast of the United States. Its
flowers and seeds feed a host of insects and ground
dwelling birds such as Quail, Pheasant and Turkeys.
Wild Senna grows to about 5-7ft tall and prefers sunpart
sun and uniformly moist soil to thrive. It has an
unusual yellow, open flower which is different from
other flowers in the Pea Family. These flowers attract
bumblebees and sweat bees and offer pollen, a
nutrient rich food containing proteins, carbohydrates,
fats and other beneficial nutrients, which the bees
collect and take back to the hive to feed the growing
larvae. Another unusual characteristic is that the
flowers do not supply nectar for the visiting bees.
The actual 'nectar' is found in little bulbous growths at
the base of each stem called an 'extrafloral nectary'.
These nectaries attract ants, flies, wasps and beetles.
Wild Senna is one of the many plants that have evolved to produce chemical
compounds within its leaves and seed pods to deter being eaten by insects and
animals. Anthraquinones are the particular chemical compounds found within
Senna that also have medicinal uses as powerful laxatives. Thank you for that
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About Linda Lillie
Linda K. Lillie is the President of Sprigs & Twigs, Inc, the premier
landscape design and maintenance, tree care, lawn care, stonework, and carpentry
service provider in southeastern Connecticut since 1997. She is a graduate of
Connecticut College in Botany, a Connecticut Master Gardener and a national
award winning landscape designer for her landscape design and landscape installation work.