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Sicklepod, Sicklepod Senna, Java Bean, Blunt-leaf Senna, Chinese Senna, Arsenic Weed - Senna obtusifolia


Family: Fabaceae – Pea family Genus Common Name: Senna Native Status: Native
Senna obtusifolia - Sicklepod, Sicklepod Senna, Java Bean, Blunt-leaf Senna, Chinese Senna, Arsenic Weed. Synonym: Cassia obtusifolia

ITIS and USDA list Senna obtusifolia as native to much of the eastern United States, especially the southern part, and is introduced in Hawaii as well as in California, where it is found only in Riverside County. It is classified as a Rare plant in Indiana, but is considered weedy or invasive in other parts of the country, including California, where it is classified as a Noxious Weed. It is also found in South America, Asia, Africa, and Oceania. Wikipedia indicates that it is native to China. The USDA Plants Database indicates that 59 species of Senna are found in North America; most of those in the continental United States are in the southwest (including the area around Texas in that categorization.)

Found in:
AL, AR, CA, DE, FL, GA, HI, IL, IN, KS, KY, LA, MA, MD, MO, MS, NC, NE, NJ, NY, OK, PA, SC, TN, TX, VA, WI, WV

Distribution of Senna obtusifolia in the United States and Canada:
USDA Plants Distribution Map temporarily unavailable.
Blue=Native; Grey=Introduced

Map from USDA Plants Database:
USDA, NRCS. 2009. The PLANTS Database (http://plants.usda.gov, 25 Oct 2014). National Plant Data Center, Baton Rouge, LA 70874-4490 USA.

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Site: Pigeon Mountain Blue Hole Area, Walker County, GA Date: 2012-August-11Photographer: Gerald C. Williamson
Nikon D7000
Tamron SP 90MM f/2.8 AF Macro
Sicklepod grows up to about 30 inches high, and has distinctive light green foliage and yellow flowers.
Senna obtusifolia

Site: Pigeon Mountain Blue Hole Area, Walker County, GA Date: 2012-August-11Photographer: Gerald C Williamson
Nikon D7000
The blossoms typically hang down and are partially or wholly obscured by the foliage. They have 5 yellow petals and 10 stamens.
Click on the photo for a larger image
Senna obtusifolia

Site: Pigeon Mountain Blue Hole Area, Walker County, GA Date: 2012-August-11Photographer: Gerald C Williamson
Nikon D7000
Tamron SP 90MM f/2.8 AF Macro
The leaves may be the most memorable feature of this plant. The are alternate and even-pinnately compound. The fairly large (for a wild pea; up to about 2” long) 4 or more commonly 6 leaflets are a distinctive obovate shape. The similar Senna occidentalis (Coffee Senna) has 8 or more lanceolate leaflets. The foliage is known to be toxic to cattle, although Wikipedia reports that the leaves are processed into a protein-rich meat substitute in parts of Africa.

Note the small brown spike-like appendage between the lowest pair of leaflets. This is a nectary outside the plant’s flowers.
Click on the photo for a larger image
Senna obtusifolia

Site: Pigeon Mountain Blue Hole Area, Walker County, GA Date: 2012-August-11Photographer: Gerald C Williamson
Nikon D7000
Tamron SP 90MM f/2.8 AF Macro
The yellow blossoms grow in axillary clusters of 1 or 2 flowers, and will develop into 4-sided seedpods which split and form a sickle shape, giving it the “Sicklepod” common name. There are 5 hairless sepals subtending the flower.
Click on the photo for a larger image
Senna obtusifolia

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All content except USDA Plants Database map Copyright Gerald C. Williamson 2014
Photographs Copyrighted by the named photographer