Sunday, November 7, 2010

Cassia bicapsularis

Cassia bicapsularis is another of the fall-blooming members of the Senna/Cassia group of plants. Taxonomists can't seem to agree on which species belong in which genus so you can call this either Senna or Cassia, although the general consensus currently seems to be Senna.
This one can be shrubby or grow into a small tree, depending on how you prune it.  The bright yellow flowers appear in clusters at the ends of the branches in mid-autumn and continue until frost.  In frost-free areas they may continue to bloom throughout the winter.
It is fast-growing to a height of 8 to 12 feet.  Growth tends to be long and unbranched, leading to breakage when the twigs bend over from the weight of the flowers.  Trim regularly during the summer to develop a strong branching structure before the fall bloom.
Sulphur butterflies utilize this plant both for nectar and as a larval food source.  In Florida this species is a caterpillar host for five of the nine native species of Sulphurs.  The caterpillars that feed on the leaves will be mostly green, but those that feed on the flower buds will be yellow.

Cassia bicapsularis is recommended for USDA Zones 9-11.  It can be evergreen or deciduous, depending on which end of its range you are located.  In Zone 8 it can be grown as a perennial, freezing to the ground in winter but returning each spring.  It is native to Central and South America, but can be found around the world in tropical areas.  Plant in full sun for best flowering.
It is also sometimes known as Christmas Cassia, Winter Cassia, and Golden Shower.

15 comments:

AaronVFT said...

That's a nice species of cassia. Lovely sunny flowers.

FlowerLady said...

Thank you Jim for the name of this cassia. It is the one I have that is in bloom right now. I love it.

FlowerLady

NanaK said...

I love this shrubby tree! Mine is slow in blooming this year though. It does have a few buds appearing but it also still has caterpillars on it. The cats have kept it a bush this year where in the last couple years it has grown as tall as 8 feet. I may need another one just to keep up with these caterpillars. (But, of course, they are why I planted this cassia in the first place.)

Rainforest Gardener said...

It does really well here in Jacksonville, growing to tree size. In Gainesville they grow it as a large returning shrubby perennial, much like firebush and often growing alongside it.

Susan said...

I love this plant, and mine is BIG but I hardly get any flowers. I have lots of sulphurs and I thought they might be eating the flowers. Yikes, any ideas on how to get mine to flower?

Grower Jim said...

Susan: Is your plant in full sun? If so, check the ends of the branches for new growth. Is it eaten away or are there still tiny leaves forming? There is usually nothing special you need to do to get these to bloom.

Orchid de dangau said...

The nice species of cassia...really beautiful.

Susan said...

Jim...My plant is in full sun, and it does look like the buds have been eaten. It's hard for me to believe they could eat all of the flowers since my plant is very large. I do see a lot of sulphurs around it though, but there weren't many caterpillars. I relocated them to the candlestick plant. Is it possible, the butterflies are eating the buds?

Grower Jim said...

Susan: It sounds like the caterpillars got your flowers. Most of them may have already grown up and moved on, or they may have been parasitized, or they may have been eaten by some other creature. Either way, it seems you're going to miss out on most of the blooming this year. Darn!

Anonymous said...

Hello! Just wondering if anyone could please tell me when this plant sets seed pods? THere's an apt complex near me that has one of these and I really want some seeds to plant!! THanks in advance!

Grower Jim said...

Seed pods will be thoroughly dry and ready to harvest during the winter months.

Woody Erickson said...

My tree which I just planted in April here in Tucson, looks sad. Some of the leaves are turning yellow and drooping. It is getting water which I am double checking on tomorrow. Is something wrong?

Grower Jim said...

Woody, watering is usually the issue when newly planted trees start to decline. Since your tree has been in the ground less than two weeks, that's the most likely problem. Don't rely on irrigation systems to give your tree the deep thorough watering it needs. Get out the hose!

debbie ranallo said...

My first year with this cassia plant. Do I leave the catapillars on the plant? I have been taking them off and was going to spray it. But from what I am reading it sound like they are a positive thing???

Grower Jim said...

Debbie,
Most people enjoy watching butterflies fluttering through their landscape and the best way to have lots of butterflies is to provide food plants for their larvae. Cassias are very vigorous plants and the feeding of a few caterpillars is seldom damaging.

Put away the spray, pull out your lawn chair, then relax and enjoy the show!

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