Portraits of Wildflowers

Perspectives on Nature Photography

Not bamboo

with 13 comments

Click for greater size and clarity.

No, not bamboo, which is alien, but a native plant that can similarly form dense groves and grow to a height of 13 ft. (4 m): it’s Sesbania herbacea, for which a little searching has turned up the vernacular names slenderpod sesbania, bigpod sesbania, coffee-bean, Colorado river-hemp, coffeeweed, sesbane, danglepod, and bequilla. I photographed this colony of the plant of many names on the edge of a nameless pond at Southeast Metropolitan Park on October 30.

To see the places in the United States where slenderpod sesbania grows, you can go to The North American Plant Atlas, where the species is listed under its former name of Sesbania exaltata. (The maps there seem more up to date than the ones at the USDA. These newer maps aren’t clickable, but you can enlarge the page by repeatedly using your browser’s Zoom In command, which I suspect you’ll find in the View menu.)

UPDATE: I should have made it clearer that Sesbania is not a genus of native bamboo, but is instead in the legume family. Unlike grasses, legumes produce pods: much of the upper half of the photograph is filled with these plants’ long and slender pods.

© 2012 Steven Schwartzman


Written by Steve Schwartzman

November 14, 2012 at 6:18 AM

13 Responses

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  1. I learn from your posts. I had not a clue that a native bamboo grows in Texas.


    November 14, 2012 at 8:26 AM

    • Actually Sesbania is in the legume family, whereas bamboo (as people are surprised to learn) is a grass. Nevertheless, a look at the lower portions of a colony of Sesbania might give you an impression similar to that of looking at a colony of bamboo.

      Steve Schwartzman

      November 14, 2012 at 9:08 AM

  2. Lovely to see grasses against a blue sky. I like the name “danglepod”, but sesbane or sesbania is certainly more elegant.


    November 14, 2012 at 8:37 AM

    • I’ve updated the post to make clear that although the stalks of these Sesbania plants may give the impression of bamboo, the plants are actually in the legume family. In any case, the way the Sesbania looks against the clear blue sky appealed to me, too.

      Steve Schwartzman

      November 14, 2012 at 9:18 AM

  3. I used to hike with 2 natural heritage botanists in southern Illinois, and I know their opinion of exotics. Uck,


    November 14, 2012 at 2:11 PM

    • Yes, native plant enthusiasts often come down hard on exotics, especially those that are invasive. In this blog I do what I can to promote native species.

      Steve Schwartzman

      November 14, 2012 at 2:54 PM

  4. Lo and behold – there was an entry on the linked page for Sesbania drummondii, which reminded me of clematis drummondii, which sent me looking for a definition of drummondii. It looks like these, along with a lovely phlox and other wildflowers, were named after Scottish botanist Thomas Drummond, who sent it and a variety of other plant samples back to Britain following his 1833–1835 expedition to Texas – yes?


    November 14, 2012 at 9:07 PM

    • Yes indeed. As you pointed out, there are various species in Texas with scientific names that give credit to Drummond, including the Clematis drummondii that I feel compelled to show pictures of from time time. TheSesbania drummondii that you mentioned, whose common name is rattlepod, is also common in central Texas. At


      you can read a brief biography of Drummond. Like so many other people in that era, he died all too young.

      Steve Schwartzman

      November 14, 2012 at 9:21 PM

  5. […] sway and lots of the water evaporated, colonies of Sesbania herbacea, the same plant you saw in the last post, sprang up on the newly exposed margins of the pond. When the rains eventually returned toward the […]

  6. Normally, your backgrounds enhance your subject. However, this time the subject is enhancing your background. What a gorgeous blue sky! I’m loving how you captured the gradient in the blue. ~Lynda


    November 15, 2012 at 6:25 AM

    • It was a striking mix of colors and forms in person, when everything was its real self and real size. I’m glad you found it so appealing even in this small version, and I like the analytical way you phrased your comment, with its turnabout statement about the subject enhancing the background. I hadn’t really paid attention to how turquoise the lower portion of the sky is, so different from the part across the top. Photographers are used to the gradient in lightness, but this time there was more than the usual one in hue. Thanks for pointing it out.

      Steve Schwartzman

      November 15, 2012 at 6:50 AM

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