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Senna obtusifolia

senna_obtusifolia

This pretty volunteer showed up in my garden one day. I noticed sulphur butterflies seemed to like it too, and it turns out that it is a host plant for them. What I didn’t want to know is that it is considered by some to be one of the world’s worst weeds. In America, in particular, it is controlled with herbicides because it competes for resources with agricultural crops, and it carries Asian soybean rust disease as well. [1]

In Asia and Africa it is more highly regarded and is often used as food or medicine. In the Sudan, leaves are fermented and then dried and eaten as a source of protein. [2]

In India the leaves and seeds are considered laxative, anthelmintic, ophthalmic, cardiotonic and expectorant. The leaves and seeds are used for ringworm, flatulence, colic, dyspepsia, constipation, cough, bronchitis, and cardiac disorders, among other things. [3]

One study [4] determined that extracts of S. obtusifolia demonstrated a broad-spectrum of activity against both gram-positive and gram-negative bacteria and fungi, which the authors concluded may confirm its use in traditional medicine.

Caterpillars have nearly denuded the plant in my garden at least a couple of times, but there are several long seed pods still attached. They look a lot like haricot verts. I’ll save them and figure out what to do with them later. They’ve been roasted and used as a coffee substitute in some places [2]…maybe that.

 

Scientific name: Senna obtusifolia, syn. Cassia obtusifolia

Common names: Sicklepod, arsenic weed, Java-bean, Jue-ming-zi

Family: Fabaceae

Nativity: Probably tropical America, but it has naturalized around the world

[1] Larry Steckel, “Sicklepod,” Extension.tennessee.edu/publications/Documents/W125.pdf, accessed November 7, 2016.
[2] Steven Foster and Yue Chongxi, Herbal Emissaries: Bringing Chinese Herbs to the West, Healing Arts Press, 1992, pp. 311–317.
[3] Pankaj Oudhia, “Charota or Chakad,” Hort.purdue.edu/newcrop/CropFactSheets/cassia.html, accessed November 6, 2016.
[4] Doughari, El-mahmood, A. M. and Tyoyina, I.”Antimicrobial activity of leaf extracts of Senna obtusifolia (L),” www.academicjournals.org/article/article1380814322_Doughari%20et%20al.pdf, accessed November 6, 2016.

Amsonia ciliata

Flowers begin opening while the plant’s unfurling branches are lax, a curious but beautiful effect.
Gil Nelson, Wildflowers of the Sandhills Region, 2011

Amsonia ciliata

I‘ve heard more often about Amsonia hubrichtii because of its use in gardens, but A. ciliata is a good garden candidate as well. The fringed bluestar has the same things going for it that A. hubrichtii does — light blue flowers in spring, outstanding fall color — but the hairs (cilia) that characterize this species catch the autumn sun in a particularly beautiful way and make it appear to glow. [1]

In the garden, fringed bluestar is tolerant of dry soils and is resistant to deer and insect pests due to its milky sap. It likes a little sun; plant in an open woodland or in a sunnier spot at wood’s edge. A selection, ‘Spring Sky’, from the Philadelphia garden of botanist Mary Henry (1884–1967), is sometimes available in nurseries, or it can be grown from cuttings or seed.

Nineteenth century botanical doctor, botanist, and ethnobotanist, Gideon Lincecum, wrote in his notes, “I have not known this plant used for any thing or by any nation of people. But it possesses the characteristic marks for a good medicine.” He believed the root of the plant to be stimulant, sudorific, and emetic, and thought one day it could come into use. [2]

 

Scientific name: Amsonia ciliata

Common names: Fringed bluestar, sandhills bluestar, slimpod, blue dogbane

Family: Apocynaceae

Native Range: Southeastern US

  1. http://RickDarke.com/amsonia.PDF, accessed 11/01/16.
  2. http://w3.biosci.utexas.edu/prc/lincecum/pages/Amsonia_salicifolia-notes.html, accessed 11/01/16.

Rudbeckia laciniata

Green-headed Coneflower (Rudbeckia laciniata)

Scientific name: Rudbeckia laciniata Linnaeus

Common names: Cutleaf Coneflower, Green-headed Coneflower, Sochan

Family: Asteraceae

Nativity: North America

Location: Oakleaf Woods, Charlotte, NC, USA

Date: August 25, 2015

Notes: Good plant for dry shade where it will seed around easily by itself to fill in gaps between shrubs, but it is very adaptable to varying levels of sun and moisture.

Host plant for silvery checkerspot butterfly caterpillars. Goldfinches enjoy the seeds in Fall.

Called sochan by the Cherokee and eaten as greens to maintain health.

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