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Wild Senna

Common Name: Wild Senna.

Scientific Name: Senna Hebecarpa (Fernald) Irwin & Barneby.

What to look for?  Golden yellow tiny flowers stacked on a tall stem! In bloom, this is a stunning plant with attractive foliage.  The Wild Senna is a perennial plant with a tall, stout light green central stem. There are five to ten pairs of compound medium green, oblong leaves. The central stem terminates in either a one inch long raceme or panicle or cluster of flowers. Each flower has five (5) yellow petals. The flowers of the Wild Senna have no noticeable floral scent. The root system of Wild Senna consists of a central taproot and rhizomes which often results in the colonies for this plant that you see around Carillon Stonegate Pond.

Where can they be found at Carillon Stonegate Pond? You can find colonies of Wild Senna scattered around the walking path along Carillon Stonegate Pond and the fields adjacent to the woodlands.

How big are they? Wild Senna stands approximately three to six feet tall. Their leaves can be up to three inches long and three-fourths of one inch across. And each of the many flowers on a cluster is approximately three-fourths of one inch in diameter.

Where do they grow and thrive? Wild Senna is found across the north central and eastern U.S. and is widely distributed throughout Illinois. It is generally found on disturbed sites, moist meadows, pastures, fields, roadsides, and within the floodplain of rivers.

When do they bloom? The blooming period for Wild Senna occurs mid to late summer from July into August.

Do birds, insects or other wildlife associate with this plant? The flowers of the Wild Senna are primarily attractive to bumblebees and halcid bees. The plant is also attractive to ants and other insects, including ladybird beetles.

Interesting Facts About the Wild Senna:

  • The species name, Senna Hebecarpa (Fernald) Irwin & Barneby, references several botanists who did work in the genus: Merritt Lyndon Fernald, Howard Samuel Irwin and Rupert Charles Barneby – not a law firm!

  • The seed are eaten by some game birds, including quail.

  • Cattle and other herbivores avoid grazing the Wild Senna because its leaves and pods contain compounds called anthraquinones, which are powerful laxatives.

  • In the Northeast U.S., Wild Senna is state listed as threatened or endangered due primarily to habitat loss.

For more information on Wild Senna and sources of information used in this blog (these are several of the sources that I am using to learn as I blog), please visit Illinois Wildflowers, University of Texas Wildflower Center, U.S. Department of Agriculture and Friends of the Wildflower Garden.

The Carillon at Stonegate community is very fortunate to have a variety of wetland, forest and prairie environments conducive to a variety of birds and other wildlife, insects and plants. Our community and the Kane County Forest Preserve do an exceptional job in maintaining this natural environment – both for the benefit of the birds and wildlife and for our residents to enjoy.


Take a hike and see what you can find – and identify!

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