Senna meridionalis (October 2008)

PhotoBy Ralph Olliges (October 2008)

Senna comes from the large genus Cassia. This genus contains about 250 species of tropical and warm-temperate trees and shrubs. They are native to Africa, Australia, Asia and the Americas. Some species of Senna are currently used as a laxative.

Senna meridionalis is a member of the Fabaceae or Leguminosae family and Caesalpinioideae subfamily. It was given its name by D. J. DuPuy in 1995. Senna is Arabic for thorny bush, and meridionalis means of noon, midday.

Senna meridionalis comes from Madagascar. The flowers are bright yellow. Its leaves are alternate and pinnate with linear to nearly rounded leaflets.

It requires well-drained soil with some water and lots of sun. Water should be applied moderately in summer and sparingly in winter. The winter minimum temperature is 50 degrees F. Senna meridionalis develops a caudex and can be grown as a bonsai.

The plant can be reproduced from woody stem cuttings or seed. Allow the pods to dry on the plant and then break them open to collect the seeds. Properly cleaned, seeds can be stored. Pests and diseases are infrequent.