At Cypress Bend Community Preserve on 4-10-2016, Donna Winter (Class of 2016) pointed out this distinctively shaped partridge pea (Chamaecrista fasciculata). Like many native plants, this species is very variable in form.
This partridge pea, growing in the white sand of what once was scrub, has a very erect shape and very reddish branches. In response to the wonderful but somewhat windy weather, it had folded up its leaflets …
The four upper petals of its flowers are always tinged with red. Their shape belies that this plant is a member of the pea family (Fabaceae), as do its pods (legumes).
In the photo above taken at the Oslo Riverfront Conservation Area, note the open even pinnate leaflets, the unripe legumes at the top, the “ripe pod” soon to split open length-wise (bottom), and the bumblebee, one of its primary pollinators. Its seeds are eaten by quail and other seed-eating birds.
Butterflies also nectar on this very variable plant, and gray hairstreak (Strymon melinus) and cloudless sulfur (Phoebis sennae) butterflies use it as a larval host plant. Extrafloral nectaries attract ants, which consume butterfly eggs.
It is not uncommon for this plant to take a very prostrate form, shown here in snow-white sugar sand at Archbold Biological research Station.