Sick over senna

Its flowers are beautiful, come at Christmas-time, and attract bevies of pollinators. Its leaves are a larval food for sulfur butterflies. Unfortunately, though, Christmas senna (Senna pendula) is a Florida Exotic Pest Plant Council Category 1 invasive pest plant.

Fast and easy to grow, this pretty plant is readily available in the landscape trade and was planted mistakenly at Audubon House by the landscape installation contractor (and soon is to be replaced with a native) …

Upon seeing this upright, tall lollipop plant, Steve Goff (Class of 2006), Pelican Island Audubon Society treasurer, related how he had purchased 2 from a native nursery — only to learn after they spread rapaciously in his yard, that this species is non-native and quite aggressive. Ironically, Steve has come to Audubon House early on Sunday morning to work to control the many invasive pest plants already there.

Sometimes this plant is called climbing senna, which what it does in the ‘wild’ shown below at the Indian River Lagoon Greenway. When not trained into unnatural uprightness, this plant is very short-lived, reportedly only four years.


Like all members of the Fabaceae (pea) family, this plant had pods that dehisce longitudinally (split length-wise). Its pods are thick, round, and full of seeds.


Best to hand-pull it, if you see a seedling of this pernicious pest in your yard …


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