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Wild Senna Senna hebecarpa

Other Common Name(s):

Previously known as:

  • Cassia hebecarpa
Phonetic Spelling
SEN-nuh hee-be-KAR-puh
Description

American senna is a herbaceous perennial in the Fabaceae (pea) family native to moist forested areas and disturbed sites in eastern North America.  This is a striking plant while in bloom and has attractive foliage. The showy yellow flowers develop and grow into dark brown seedpods that attract birds and add winter interest to the garden.

American senna do well in partial to full sun, and moist to mesic conditions. A rich loamy soil is preferred, although sandy and rocky soils are also tolerated. It doesn't mind an occasional flooding. This plant can become quite tall when the soil is fertile and moist. It may flop over while the flowers and seedpods are developing. This plant is drought tolerant once established.  It is easy to propagate by seeds dropped by the plant or started in the early fall or by the division of roots in the early spring or fall. Plan to cut back mature seed heads in the late summer/early fall to control the number of plants in the garden. Full sun aids in better flowering.  

The american senna is a host plant for various Sulphur butterflies.  Before the butterflies emerge, foliage and flower buds are often eaten by the caterpillars. The seeds may be eaten by some upland gamebirds as well, particularly the Bobwhite. The plant has many medicinal uses.  In the 9th century, Arab physicians used to brew the leaves to make a cathartic (purgative) tea.  The leaves and seeds are used today as a laxative.  The Cherokee and other peoples use the root of the plant to treat high fevers, a worm remedy, treat fainting spells and to treat pneumonia.  

The american senna is most often found on riverbanks, in moist meadows, pastures, and roadsides. Some disturbance of the plant location is beneficial to allow it to grow without it being overtaken by other trees and shrubs. Occasionally, american senna is found in flower gardens because of its showy flowers.

Insects, Diseases, and Other Plant Problems:  Foliage and flower buds are often eaten by the caterpillars of the Cloudless Sulpher Butterfly.  Otherwise, they have no serious insect problems. Grown in rich soil it can flop over when flowering and may need support.  

See this plant in the following landscape:
Cultivars / Varieties:
Tags:
#deciduous#wildlife plant#yellow flowers#native perennials#medicinal#low maintenance#riparian#windbreak#stream banks#bumblebees#NC native#summer flowers#flowers mid-summer#larval host plant#food source summer#gray-green leaves#food source fall#flowers late summer#FAC#food source herbage#male pollinator plant#butterfly friendly#wind damage prone
 
Cultivars / Varieties:
Tags:
#deciduous#wildlife plant#yellow flowers#native perennials#medicinal#low maintenance#riparian#windbreak#stream banks#bumblebees#NC native#summer flowers#flowers mid-summer#larval host plant#food source summer#gray-green leaves#food source fall#flowers late summer#FAC#food source herbage#male pollinator plant#butterfly friendly#wind damage prone
  • Attributes:
    Genus:
    Senna
    Species:
    hebecarpa
    Family:
    Fabaceae
    Uses (Ethnobotany):
    In the 9th century, Arab physicians used to brew the leaves to make a cathartic tea. The leaves and seeds are used today as a laxative. The Cherokee and other peoples use the root of the plant to treat high fevers, a worm remedy, treat fainting spells and to treat pneumonia.
    Life Cycle:
    Perennial
    Recommended Propagation Strategy:
    Division
    Seed
    Country Or Region Of Origin:
    Eastern Northern America
    Distribution:
    New England to Georgia, west to Illinois and Wisconsin
    Wildlife Value:
    Bumblebees are attracted to pollen. Birds enjoy the seeds particularly Bobwhites. Larval host plant of various types of Sulphur butterflies. Insects like ladybird beetles, ants and flies eat the nectar at the glands found at the base of the petioles because the flowers are nectar-less.
    Play Value:
    Attractive Flowers
    Attracts Pollinators
    Wildlife Food Source
    Wind Break
    Particularly Resistant To (Insects/Diseases/Other Problems):
    Wet soils. It has a horizontal root system that allows it to be resistant to wind.
    Dimensions:
    Height: 4 ft. 0 in. - 6 ft. 0 in.
    Width: 3 ft. 0 in. - 4 ft. 0 in.
  • Whole Plant Traits:
    Plant Type:
    Native Plant
    Shrub
    Woody Plant Leaf Characteristics:
    Deciduous
    Habit/Form:
    Rounded
    Growth Rate:
    Medium
    Maintenance:
    Low
    Texture:
    Fine
  • Cultural Conditions:
    Light:
    Full sun (6 or more hours of direct sunlight a day)
    Partial Shade (Direct sunlight only part of the day, 2-6 hours)
    Soil Texture:
    High Organic Matter
    Loam (Silt)
    Sand
    Shallow Rocky
    Soil pH:
    Neutral (6.0-8.0)
    Soil Drainage:
    Good Drainage
    Moist
    Occasionally Wet
    Available Space To Plant:
    12 inches-3 feet
    NC Region:
    Coastal
    Mountains
    Piedmont
    USDA Plant Hardiness Zone:
    4a, 4b, 5b, 5a, 6b, 6a, 7b, 7a, 8a, 8b, 9b, 9a
  • Fruit:
    Fruit Color:
    Brown/Copper
    Display/Harvest Time:
    Fall
    Winter
    Fruit Type:
    Legume
    Fruit Length:
    > 3 inches
    Fruit Width:
    < 1 inch
    Fruit Description:
    Flattened pods 4" long 1/2" wide, dark brown at maturity with 10-18 segments each containing a seed.
  • Flowers:
    Flower Color:
    Gold/Yellow
    White
    Flower Inflorescence:
    Panicle
    Raceme
    Flower Value To Gardener:
    Showy
    Flower Bloom Time:
    Summer
    Flower Shape:
    Cup
    Flower Petals:
    4-5 petals/rays
    Flower Size:
    < 1 inch
    Flower Description:
    Butter yellow, not typical pea-like flowers, raceme or panicle of flowers 1/2"-1" long. Flowers have 5 yellow sepals, 5 yellow petals, 10 dark brown stamens. Petals whiten as they age from mid- to late summer. There is no floral scent.
  • Leaves:
    Woody Plant Leaf Characteristics:
    Deciduous
    Leaf Color:
    Gray/Silver
    Green
    Leaf Feel:
    Smooth
    Leaf Value To Gardener:
    Showy
    Leaf Type:
    Compound (Pinnately , Bipinnately, Palmately)
    Leaf Arrangement:
    Alternate
    Leaf Shape:
    Elliptical
    Oblong
    Leaf Margin:
    Entire
    Hairs Present:
    No
    Leaf Length:
    1-3 inches
    Leaf Width:
    < 1 inch
    Leaf Description:
    Compound pinnate leaves 5-10 pairs of gray green leaflets 2 1/2" long and 3/4" wide. Leaflets are oblong, elliptic with a pointed tip. At the petiole base are two lanceolate stipules that fall off.
  • Stem:
    Stem Color:
    Green
    Stem Is Aromatic:
    No
    Stem Surface:
    Hairy (pubescent)
    Stem Description:
    Light green stout central stem, slightly hairy in the upper stem
  • Landscape:
    Landscape Location:
    Meadow
    Riparian
    Slope/Bank
    Landscape Theme:
    Butterfly Garden
    Pollinator Garden
    Design Feature:
    Border
    Hedge
    Specimen
    Attracts:
    Bees
    Butterflies
    Songbirds