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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

Senna Obtusifolia

October 28, 2016

[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.

Buddleja davidii

Buddleja davidii

Scientific name: Buddleja davidii, often spelled Buddleia

Common names: Butterfly bush, orange-eye butterfly bush, summer lilac, mimenghua, mi meng hua

Family: Buddlejaceae

Nativity: China and Japan

Location: Ev-Henwood Nature Preserve, Leland, NC

Date: October 24, 2016

Notes: The beautifully ornamental butterfly bush is widely planted in the southeastern United States, and all around the world. It is beloved as a nectar plant for butterflies, but is not a host plant for Southeast native insects. It has naturalized in Britain and is considered invasive in New Zealand, Australia, and the Pacific Northwest.

Since local butterflies don’t lay their eggs on it, and it has potential for taking over in areas where those host plants are needed, how about a native plant instead? Consider the butterfly magnet, buttonbush (Cephalanthus occidentalis), or fothergilla (Fothergilla spp.), or a North American salvia (Salvia coccinea, and others). All look beautiful and provide for local wildlife at the same time — and they add variety and some diversity to your landscape! Who needs a million butterfly bushes if you can plant some other nice things?

If you already have a butterfly bush or find a naturalized one, feel free to use it all up! They make good dye plants, producing shades of green, golden-orange and brown. [1] In China, Buddleja officialis, and perhaps this species as well [2], is used for pink-eye with swelling, watering of the eyes, and for sharpening vision. [3] Anecdotally, B. davidii flowers make a delicious medicinal syrup with sedative properties. [4]

 


[1] http://www.pfaf.org/user/Plant.aspx?LatinName=Buddleia+davidii, accessed November 4, 2016.
[2] http://flora.huh.harvard.edu/china/PDF/PDF15/buddleja.pdf, accessed November 4, 2016.
[3] Chinese Herbal Cures, Henry C. Lu, Sterling Publishing, 1994.
[4] http://www.pfaf.org/user/Plant.aspx?LatinName=Buddleia+davidii, see comment by Sally M., accessed November 4, 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

Amsonia Ciliata

Sandhills Gameland, Hoffman, NC
October 23, 2016

  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.
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