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Stinking Weed Senna occidentalis

Other Common Name(s):

Previously known as:

  • Cassia occidentalis
Phonetic Spelling
SEN-nuh ok-sih-den-TAY-liss
This plant has low severity poison characteristics.
See below
Description

Coffee senna is a pantropical or subtropical weed in the Fabaceae (pea) family found in moist, disturbed or waste areas in lower elevations around the world.  Originally native to the Americas, it has been widely cultivated throughout the tropics and subtropics and is commonly naturalized in many areas. In these non-seasonal zones, the plants can bloom all year round.

Coffee senna requires full sun, in a deep, well-drained, moderately fertile sandy loamy soil.  It prefers a moderate pH but will grow in alkaline soils as well.  It is easily propagated by seed.  The seeds may benefit from scarification before sowing in order to speed up and improve germination.

Even though the plant has poisonous characteristics if taken in large quantities, almost all parts of the plant (leaf, flower, root, seeds) are used as food and medicine by various peoples in many parts of the world.  The seeds are often used as a substitute for coffee.  The root and dried flowers are brewed as a type of tea to treat gastrointestinal issues, colds and flu, and circulatory problems.  Poultices made from the roots and flowers are used to treat skin disorders such as eczema.  There are many other uses.  The leaves, seeds and flowers are steamed and eaten as a vegetable. 

Coffee senna grows in disturbed environments in and around abandoned fields/houses and roadsides.  The plant has a strong disagreeable odor when crushed.

Insects, Diseases, and Other Plant Problems:  The plant has poisonous characteristics to humans if taken in large quantities.  The plant is poisonous to cattle.  It is considered a weed in cultivated fields and plantations and can accumulate in heavily grazed pastures as the cattle won't eat it. 

See this plant in the following landscape:
Cultivars / Varieties:
Tags:
#poisonous#yellow flowers#medicinal#low maintenance#riparian#food source summer#gray-green leaves#food source fall#flowers late summer#edible#weed#full sun
 
Cultivars / Varieties:
Tags:
#poisonous#yellow flowers#medicinal#low maintenance#riparian#food source summer#gray-green leaves#food source fall#flowers late summer#edible#weed#full sun
  • Attributes:
    Genus:
    Senna
    Species:
    occidentalis
    Family:
    Fabaceae
    Uses (Ethnobotany):
    All parts of the plant (leaf, flower, root, seeds) are used as food and medicine by various peoples in many parts of the world.
    Life Cycle:
    Annual
    Perennial
    Recommended Propagation Strategy:
    Seed
    Country Or Region Of Origin:
    Tropical & Subtropical Americas
    Distribution:
    Pantropical areas around the world
    Particularly Resistant To (Insects/Diseases/Other Problems):
    The plant smells bad when crushed.
    Edibility:
    All parts of the plant are edible
    Dimensions:
    Height: 3 ft. 0 in. - 6 ft. 0 in.
    Width: 3 ft. 0 in. - 4 ft. 0 in.
  • Whole Plant Traits:
    Plant Type:
    Poisonous
    Habit/Form:
    Rounded
    Growth Rate:
    Medium
    Maintenance:
    Low
    Texture:
    Fine
  • Cultural Conditions:
    Light:
    Full sun (6 or more hours of direct sunlight a day)
    Soil Texture:
    Loam (Silt)
    Sand
    Soil pH:
    Alkaline (>8.0)
    Neutral (6.0-8.0)
    Soil Drainage:
    Good Drainage
    Moist
    Available Space To Plant:
    12 inches-3 feet
    USDA Plant Hardiness Zone:
    9b, 9a, 10b, 10a, 11b, 11a
  • Fruit:
    Fruit Color:
    Brown/Copper
    Fruit Value To Gardener:
    Edible
    Display/Harvest Time:
    Fall
    Fruit Type:
    Legume
    Fruit Length:
    1-3 inches
    Fruit Width:
    < 1 inch
    Fruit Description:
    The seed pods are long, dark brown and curve slightly upward. They have separate segments, each containing a seed. The seeds are olive - brown and flattened on both ends. The seeds can be roasted and used as a substitute for coffee.
  • Flowers:
    Flower Color:
    Gold/Yellow
    Orange
    Flower Inflorescence:
    Panicle
    Raceme
    Flower Value To Gardener:
    Edible
    Showy
    Flower Bloom Time:
    Fall
    Spring
    Summer
    Winter
    Flower Shape:
    Cup
    Flower Petals:
    4-5 petals/rays
    Flower Size:
    < 1 inch
    Flower Description:
    Orange yellow to 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.
  • Leaves:
    Leaf Color:
    Gray/Silver
    Green
    Leaf Feel:
    Leathery
    Leaf Value To Gardener:
    Edible
    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 4-5 pairs of gray green leaflets 2 1/2" long and 3/4" wide. Leaflets are oblong, elliptic with a pointed tip.
  • Stem:
    Stem Color:
    Green
    Stem Is Aromatic:
    No
    Stem Description:
    Light green stout central stem
  • Landscape:
    Landscape Location:
    Meadow
    Naturalized Area
    Riparian
    Landscape Theme:
    Edible Garden
    Attracts:
    Pollinators
    Problems:
    Weedy
  • Poisonous to Humans:
    Poison Severity:
    Low
    Poison Symptoms:
    TOXIC ONLY IF LARGE QUANTITIES EATEN. Diarrhea, remors, dark brown urine.
    Poison Toxic Principle:
    Anthraquinones, emodin glycosides., toxalbumins, alkaloids
    Causes Contact Dermatitis:
    No
    Poison Part:
    Bark
    Flowers
    Fruits
    Leaves
    Roots
    Seeds
    Stems