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Publication #FPS111

Cassia bahamensis Bahama Cassia1

Edward F. Gilman2

Introduction

Bahama cassia (also known as C. chapmanii) is a tall upright shrub that may reach a height of 3 to 9 feet (Fig. 1). Like many other cassias, this shrub is covered with little yellow flowers in the fall which are quite attractive next to the dark green, compound leaves. Several kinds of butterflies, including the sulfurs, are attracted to these 1/2- to 1-inch-wide flowers. Bahama cassia is relatively short-lived and may begin to decline after only four or five years. However, this plant often has seedlings popping up nearby. This could be a mixed blessing by providing for a source of new plants and creating a potential weed problem.

Figure 1. 

Bahama cassia.


[Click thumbnail to enlarge.]

General Information

Scientific name: Cassia bahamensis
Pronunciation: KASS-ee-uh baw-haw-MEN-sis
Common name(s): Bahama cassia, Bahama senna
Family: Leguminosae
Plant type: shrub
USDA hardiness zones: 10B through 11 (Fig. 2)
Planting month for zone 10 and 11: year round
Origin: native to Florida
Uses: specimen; screen; border; mass planting; attracts butterflies; small parking lot islands (< 100 square feet in size); medium-sized parking lot islands (100-200 square feet in size); large parking lot islands (> 200 square feet in size)
Availablity: grown in small quantities by a small number of nurseries
Figure 2. 

Shaded area represents potential planting range.


[Click thumbnail to enlarge.]

Description

Height: 3 to 9 feet
Spread: 6 to 10 feet
Plant habit: upright; round
Plant density: moderate
Growth rate: moderate
Texture: fine

Foliage

Leaf arrangement: alternate
Leaf type: even-pinnately compound
Leaf margin: revolute
Leaf shape: elliptic (oval)
Leaf venation: pinnate
Leaf type and persistence: evergreen
Leaf blade length: less than 2 inches
Leaf color: green
Fall color: no fall color change
Fall characteristic: not showy

Flower

Flower color: yellow
Flower characteristic: fall flowering; winter flowering

Fruit

Fruit shape: elongated
Fruit length: 3 to 6 inches
Fruit cover: dry or hard
Fruit color: brown
Fruit characteristic: showy

Trunk and Branches

Trunk/bark/branches: typically multi-trunked or clumping stems; not particularly showy
Current year stem/twig color: brown
Current year stem/twig thickness: medium

Culture

Light requirement: plant grows in part shade/part sun
Soil tolerances: acidic; alkaline; sand; loam; clay
Drought tolerance: high
Soil salt tolerances: good
Plant spacing: 36 to 60 inches

Other

Roots: usually not a problem
Winter interest: plant has winter interest due to unusual form, nice persistent fruits, showy winter trunk, or winter flowers
Outstanding plant: plant has outstanding ornamental features and could be planted more
Invasive potential: native plant that often reproduces into nearby landscapes
Pest resistance: long-term health usually not affected by pests

Use and Management

Bahama cassia could be used in the landscape as a specimen planted by itself, or as a screen, hedge, or border. In a sunny location it grows to about 8 feet tall so would make a nice background plant in a shrub border. Allow plenty of room for its rounded, spreading habit of growth. Plants can easily grow to become 6 to 10 feet wide.

In the sun, Bahama cassia will be bushy and seldom exceeds a height of 3 to 5 feet; it will obtain a height of 9 feet in partial shade. This shrub prefers well-drained, acid, sandy soil and is drought tolerant. Prune the plant back to the ground in the spring every few years to rejuvenate it, or following a winter with freezing temperatures. Freezing temperature will usually kill all tissue above ground. The plant often sprouts back quickly in the spring in hardiness zone 9 and 10.

Cassia can be propagated by using seeds or cuttings.

Pests and Diseases

Bahama cassia is not susceptible to any diseases of major concern. As with other cassias, caterpillars may consume the leaves and flower buds, especially in the fall.

Footnotes

1.

This document is FPS111, one of a series of the Environmental Horticulture Department, UF/IFAS Extension. Original publication date October 1999. Reviewed February 2014. Visit the EDIS website at http://edis.ifas.ufl.edu.

2.

Edward F. Gilman, professor, Environmental Horticulture Department, UF/IFAS Extension, Gainesville, FL 32611.


The Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences (IFAS) is an Equal Opportunity Institution authorized to provide research, educational information and other services only to individuals and institutions that function with non-discrimination with respect to race, creed, color, religion, age, disability, sex, sexual orientation, marital status, national origin, political opinions or affiliations. For more information on obtaining other UF/IFAS Extension publications, contact your county's UF/IFAS Extension office.

U.S. Department of Agriculture, UF/IFAS Extension Service, University of Florida, IFAS, Florida A & M University Cooperative Extension Program, and Boards of County Commissioners Cooperating. Nick T. Place, dean for UF/IFAS Extension.