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Showy Partridge Pea (Cassia chamaecrista)

 

Showy Partridge Pea

Cassia chamaecrista = Chamaecrista fasciculata

(Order Fabales; Family Caesalpinia)

Left: Cassia chamaecrista (photo by Jessie Stark)

(Kansas: Sedgwick County.  Great Plains Nature Center, in grassy wooded area near creek.  July 13, 2012.)

Right: Cassia chamaecrista (from: http://www.swsbm.com/NGSImages/NGS.html)

 

Diagnosis:

Height: 30-120 cm

Stems: Erect and highly branched

Leaves: Leaves are 2.5-10cm long and are alternate, even-pinnately compound with 14-26 leaflets. Leaflets are oblong, (0.6-2 cm long and 0.5 cm wide) with the margins fringed by minute hairs. Leaves are touch-sensitive and fold when disturbed. Nectar is produced by a small, reddish-brown gland at the base of each leaf.

Inflorescences: Racemes with 2-7 flowers in leaf axils

Flowers: Showy, with 5 bright yellow, unequal petals and 5 lanceolate sepals. Upper 4 petals have a reddish spot, the lower petal is larger and curved without the red spot. Flowers have 10 unequal, perfect stamens which can be yellow or purple.

Fruits: Fruits are flat, linear legumes, 2-7 cm long and brown in color. Each pod has 4-20 small, dark seeds which are somewhat rectangular and flattened.

Left: Cassia chamaecrista with flowers and immature fruit (from: http://www.spiritmound.com/prairieguide.htm)

Right: Cassia chamaecrista leaf (from: http://www.minnesotawildflowers.info/flower/partridge-pea)

 

Flowering Period:

July-September

 

Habitat:

Usually found in prairies and disturbed areas such as roadside ditches. Grows in sandy or rocky soils.

 

Conservation Status:

Categorized as a weed on the following regional weed lists: Kentucky, Nebraska and the Great Plains, Weeds of United States and Canada

 

Native Status:

Native to the United States

 

Distribution:

Found throughout Kansas except in the northwest corner. Occurs throughout the eastern United States and westward as far as Minnesota, South Dakota, Nebraska, Kansas, Oklahoma, Texas, and Arizona.

Distribution of Cassia chamaecrista in U.S. (from: http://www.easywildflowers.com/quality/chamaecrista%20fasiculata.htm)

 

Visitors:

Long tongued bees of the families Apidae, Anthophoridae, and Megachilidae are the only effective pollinators. Short-tongued bees of the family Halictidae collect stray pollen or simply suck nectar. Flies of the family Syrphidae suck nectar and feed on stray pollen. Other non-pollinating visitors include various families of wasps, ants, and flies, as well as plant bugs (Miradae) and beetles (Buprestidae).

 

Uses:

Showy partridge pea is popular in native plant gardens for its showy flowers and interesting foliage. Quail, mallard, pheasant, prairie chicken and song birds eat the seeds. Deer consume the foliage, which is high in phosphorous and protein. However, foliage is toxic to livestock when consumed in large quantities.

 

Videos:

Nature in a Minute, Episode 7: Partridge Pea

 

Links:

Kansas Wildflowers and Grasses: http://www.kswildflower.org/flower_details.php?flowerID=14

 

Restoring the Landscape: http://www.restoringthelandscape.com/2011/01/silver-spotted-skipper-butterfly-native.html

 

Alabama Cooperative Extension System.  "Planting Partridge Pea for Bobwhite Quail":

http://www.aces.edu/pubs/docs/A/ANR-0610/ANR-0610.html

 

The Quality Deer Management Association.  "Know Your Deer Plants":

http://www.qdma.com/articles/know-your-deer-plants-partridge-pea

 

References:

Haddock, M. 2005. Wildflowers and Grasses of Kansas. University Press of Kansas. Lawrence, KS. 257 pp.

 

Owensby, C. 1980. Kansas Prairies Wildflowers. Iowa State University Press. Iowa State University Press. Ames, Iowa. 67 pp.

 

Barkley, T. 1968. A Manual of the Flowering Plants of Kansas. Kansas State University Endowment Association. Manhattan, KS. 189-190 pp.

 

USDA, NRCS. 2012. The PLANTS Database (http://plants.usda.gov, 27 July 2012). National Plant Data Team, Greensboro, NC 27401-4901 USA.

 

Hilty, J. Flower-Visiting Insect of Partridge Pea. http://www.illinoiswildflowers.info/flower_insects/plants/partridge_pea.htm. 27 July 2012.

 

Submitted by: Jessie Stark, July 2012

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