Bahama Cassia, Senna Mexicana var. Chapmanii

In the realm of twilight, where darkness stretches its tendrils, there lies a plant, shrouded in mystery: the Bahama Cassia, Senna Mexicana var. Chapmanii. The Bahama Cassia is a perennial shrub native to the subtropical regions of Florida, the Bahamas, and Cuba. It’s is no stranger to the shadows cast by live oaks, palms, and maybe some tire swings. The Bahama Cassia, reaching heights of up to 10+ feet, contains pinnately compound leaves and of three to six pairs of leaflets.

Bahama Cassia Flower

☺︎ Its flowers, like the flicker of a flame amidst the darkness, boast a striking yellow hue. As they bloom in summer and fall, their presence creates a stark contrast against the encroaching greenery and eternal darkness.

The Bahama Cassia provides sustenance for various forms of wildlife. The Cloudless Sulphur (Phoebis sennae) butterflies, are particularly fond of the plant, feasting on the nectar of its flowers. Sleepy orange (Eurema nicippi) and the orange-barred sulphur (Phoebis philea) butterflies also use the Bahama Cassia as a host plant. As the butterflies drink from the wellspring, they aid in the pollination of the plant, ensuring its presence for generations to come.

The seeds of the Bahama Cassia are enveloped in a dark, unassuming pod, as they cure on the plant. They lie in wait until the winds of life release them to sow their glow anew. Unfortunately for fans of the Bahama Cassia, it’s not an aggressive species as far as the seeds go.

A Soldier Beetle on the Bahama Cassia, March 23, 2023, Tampa, Florida

☹︎ Stay away from a similar plant, the Christmas senna (S. pendula), or the Butterfly senna. In Florida, it is invasive!

Scientific NameSenna mexicana var. chapmanii, Cassia bahamensis
Common NameBahama Cassia, Chapman’s Wild Sensitive Plant
SpeciesS. mexicana var. chapmanii
HabitatCoastal areas, pine rocklands, hammocks, and disturbed sites
Native RangeSouth Florida, the Bahamas, and Cuba
Plant TypeHerbaceous perennial or subshrub
Life CyclePerennial
Bloom TimeSpring to fall
Flower ColorYellow
Flower StructureFive-petaled flowers in clusters or solitary
PollinatorsBees, butterflies, and other insects
Soil PreferenceWell-drained sandy, limestone, or rocky soils; tolerates a wide range of soil types
Light RequirementFull sun to partial shade
Water RequirementModerate; drought-tolerant once established
Propagation MethodsSeeds, stem cuttings, and root division
Conservation StatusNot evaluated; however, it is a rare plant in parts of its native range
UsesOrnamental, butterfly gardens, wildlife habitat

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