American Senna

Cassia marilandica L.

Synonym.—Senna marilandica Link.

Other common names.—Wild senna, locust plant.

Habitat and range.—American senna generally frequents wet or swampy soils from New England to North Carolina and westward to Louisiana and Nebraska.

Description.—This is a native species, a member of the senna family (Caesalpiniaceae), which is closely related to the pea family. It is a perennial herb, its round grooved stems reaching about 4 to 6 feet in height. The leaves, which are borne on long, somewhat bristly hairy stalks, are 6 to 8 inches long and consist of from 12 to 20 leaflets placed opposite to each other on the stem. Each leaflet is oblong or lance-shaped oblong, blunt at the top but terminating with a short, stiff point, rounded at the base and from 1 to U inches long, the stalks supporting them being rather short; the upper surface is of a pale-green color, while underneath it is still lighter in color and covered with a bloom. On the upper surface of the leaf stem, near its base, is a prominent club-shaped gland, borne on a stalk.

The numerous yellow flowers are borne on slender, hairy stems, produced in clusters in the axils of the leaves at the top of the plant and appearing from about August to September. The pods are about 3 inches in length, linear, somewhat curved and drooping, slightly hairy at first, flat, and narrowed on the sides between the seeds. They contain numerous small, flat, dark-brown seeds. (Fig. 5.) Collection, prices, and uses.—The leaves, or rather the leaflets, are the parts employed and should be gathered at flowering time, which usually occurs during July and August. They were official in the United States

Pharmacopoeia from 1820 to 1880. American senna leaves have a very slight odor and a rather disagreeable taste, somewhat like that of the foreign senna. It is used for purposes similar to the well-known senna of commerce imported from abroad, having, like that, cathartic properties.

The price at present paid for American senna is about 6 to 8 cents a pound.


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