New for me: Senna alata

If you read my blog regularly, you'll know that I like to try new plants every year. For me the potential in a new seed packet or even a few seeds shared by a gardening friend is one of the most exciting things about gardening. I'm not just talking about trying a different variety of tomato (although I recommend doing that too), or red petunias instead of the pink you always get -- I mean try something really different. A plant species or genus that you never have grown before.


For me this year one of the "new" ones is Senna alata (aka Cassia alata, or Candle bush). This is a tropical plant that I'll grow as an annual, and promises to be big and impressive. So far it's been that.

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The compound leaves when the plant is very small look alarmingly like the black locust suckers that come up all over my yard, but as the plants got a little larger, so did the leaves:


It doesn't look like a black locust anymore!

One interesting thing about this plant is the leaves fold up in the evening.


I love the way the new growth forms too!


I have three of these guys in the ground this year, and one of them is getting damaged by something:


The large black ants are all over this plant (yes, I think they're the same ones that keep swarming the nearby hummingbird feeder), but I couldn't tell if they were the ones causing the damage, or if they were protecting the plant.





After much time in the hot sun and many deleted photos, I managed to get a few halfway decent shots of the ants apparently causing the damage themselves.



It seemed like of the many ants on this plant it was just a few that were biting the leaves, and I started wondering if there were some joker ants in the group. Maybe they were causing the damage while the majority of the ants were looking for the intruders who were hurting "their" plant. I wish they'd stop doing it though.

It's also possible that tiny Cloudless Sulphur caterpillars are doing the damage, although it doesn't look like that sort of damage to me. I'll keep an eye out though.




If my growing season is long enough, this plant should produce large "candles" of yellow blooms, so I'm looking forward to that.


Whether it blooms or not though, it's been a nice addition to my garden so far this year!

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scottweberpdx  – (July 17, 2012 at 10:21 AM)  

Nice! I've seen a few bloggers over the last year or so RAVE about Senna...and the mature clumps truly are amazing :-)

smartkim  – (July 17, 2012 at 10:45 AM)  

Love your blog and all the pictures! I am moving soon to a new house and am getting great ideas about what to plant and grow in the yard. I'm a novice when it comes to plants/gardens and didn't realize you could grow so much from seeds. You do a great job with your yard!

Gerhard Bock (Bamboo, Succulents and More)  – (July 17, 2012 at 10:48 AM)  

Wow, I've never seen one of these before. I wonder how tall it gets?

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