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Maryland Senna Senna marilandica

Other Common Name(s):

Previously known as:

  • Cassia marilandica
Phonetic Spelling
SEN-nuh mar-i-LAND-ih-ka
Description

Maryland 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. Maryland senna is virtually indistinguishable from the american senna, except when they produce ripe seeds. The seedpods of the maryland senna remain tightly closed until the end of the season, whereas the american senna plant readily opens its pods and allows the seeds to fall out.

Maryland 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. Once the seeds appear, it is easy to propagate by seeds or by the division of roots in the early spring or fall. Full sun aids in better flowering.  

The maryland senna is a host plant for various Sulphur butterflies including Cloudless Sulphur, Orange-Barred Sulphur, Tailed Orange, Little Yellow, and Sleepy Orange 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 quail and dove. 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 pneumonia.  

The maryland 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, maryland senna is found in flower gardens because of its showy flowers and leaves that give it a tropical feel.

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.

See this plant in the following landscape:
Cultivars / Varieties:
Tags:
#deciduous#easy to grow#wildlife plant#yellow flowers#native perennials#medicinal#colorful leaves#low maintenance#winter interest#riparian#stream banks#fast growing#bumblebees#NC native#pollinator plant#flowers mid-summer#larval host plant#food source summer#gray-green leaves#food source fall#flowers late summer#food source herbage#bird friendly#butterfly friendly#food source winter
 
Cultivars / Varieties:
Tags:
#deciduous#easy to grow#wildlife plant#yellow flowers#native perennials#medicinal#colorful leaves#low maintenance#winter interest#riparian#stream banks#fast growing#bumblebees#NC native#pollinator plant#flowers mid-summer#larval host plant#food source summer#gray-green leaves#food source fall#flowers late summer#food source herbage#bird friendly#butterfly friendly#food source winter
  • Attributes:
    Genus:
    Senna
    Species:
    marilandica
    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
    Root Cutting
    Seed
    Country Or Region Of Origin:
    Northern America
    Distribution:
    From Massachusetts and New York to the south of Florida, west through Texas
    Wildlife Value:
    Bumblebees are attracted to pollen. Birds enjoy the seeds particularly quail and dove. 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.
    Particularly Resistant To (Insects/Diseases/Other Problems):
    Wet soils
    Dimensions:
    Height: 4 ft. 0 in. - 6 ft. 0 in.
    Width: 3 ft. 0 in. - 6 ft. 0 in.
  • Whole Plant Traits:
    Plant Type:
    Perennial
    Shrub
    Woody Plant Leaf Characteristics:
    Deciduous
    Habit/Form:
    Rounded
    Growth Rate:
    Rapid
    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
    Occasionally Wet
    Available Space To Plant:
    12 inches-3 feet
    NC Region:
    Coastal
    Mountains
    Piedmont
    USDA Plant Hardiness Zone:
    4b, 5b, 5a, 6b, 6a, 7a, 7b, 8b, 8a, 9b, 9a, 10b, 10a
  • Fruit:
    Fruit Color:
    Black
    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:
    Fall
    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:
    The dull green leaves are pinnate and composed of 6-12 pairs of oval leaflets.
  • 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