Portraits of Wildflowers

Perspectives on Nature Photography

Lindheimer’s senna

with 28 comments

Walking along the North Walnut Creek Trail on September 19th I glimpsed some bright yellow flowers at a distance through the woods. Could they be my first Maximilian sunflowers for this year? No: when I hiked over to investigate I found the flowers were Lindheimer’s senna, Senna lindheimeriana, a member of the pea family.

Even close to the ground some of the senna plants were flowering.

Several senna leaflets still had morning dewdrops on them.

So did a few of the flowers.

© 2018 Steven Schwartzman


Written by Steve Schwartzman

September 29, 2018 at 4:51 AM

28 Responses

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  1. This is one of my favorite bits of autumn yellow. The first time I saw it, along the Medina river, also was the weekend I saw the Lindheimer exhibit at the Sophienburg Museum in New Braunfels. It was such fun to see the live plant first, and then to see Lindheimer’s own herbarium sheet, with the notes next to the dried plant written in his own hand.


    September 29, 2018 at 9:14 AM

    • I’d say that’s the right order: live plants first, so you know what they really look like, followed by herbarium specimens for reference. This is proving a good fall for Lindheimer’s senna. I’ve seen it in various places in north Austin, and someone I know 20 miles to the south photographed a bright flowering stand of it early in the week.

      Steve Schwartzman

      September 29, 2018 at 9:43 AM

  2. Definitely a pea leaf shape but not the usual pea flower. And those photos with the dewdrops! Smashing!


    September 29, 2018 at 2:12 PM

    • The leaflets in this species are covered with fine hairs (leading to the alternate name velvet leaf senna), and that’s why water droplets cling to the surface.

      At https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fabaceae I see that the Fabaceae, which is to say the (very large) bean family, consists of six subfamilies and various tribes. Lindheimer’s senna is in the subfamily Caesalpinioideae and the tribe Cassieae. That may be a different part of the family from what you think of as the one having “the usual pea flower.”

      Steve Schwartzman

      September 29, 2018 at 3:22 PM

  3. Someone else just posted pictures of the popcorn cassia, which I had not seen in years. I think we used to know yours as velvet leaf cassia, which sort of fit in with the ‘natives’ fad. I don’t know how that worked. It could have been a different species that really was native. We did not know them as Senna back then.


    September 29, 2018 at 4:46 PM

    • I was aware of the genus change from Cassia to Senna. I didn’t know till earlier today that an alternate common name for this species is velvet leaf senna, which accords with what you’ve said. With regard to the native fad, the species is native here (in fact my county is the easternmost one in its range), and stretches across southern New Mexico and barely into Arizona, but stops well short of California. So native in California wouldn’t have worked, as you said. As for popcorn cassia, which I’d never heard of till now, I see that it’s native in central and eastern Africa—a far cry from native anywhere over here.

      Steve Schwartzman

      September 29, 2018 at 7:08 PM

      • They sure are nice anyway. If someone likes it enough, they may designate it as a native, like the ‘native’ Tasmanian blue gum eucalyptus. It is both native AND Tasmanian!


        September 30, 2018 at 2:06 AM

        • Well, “native” isn’t something that can be designated. Only plants that grow on their own in a place can be considered native there. What we can say of a non-native plant that takes hold in a place is that it is naturalized there.

          Steve Schwartzman

          September 30, 2018 at 7:42 PM

          • Well, I know that, and you know that, but you know how some of these modern ‘experts’ are.


            September 30, 2018 at 11:26 PM

            • In my limited experience, those “experts” are people who want to sell something. Nothing new under the sun, alas.

              Steve Schwartzman

              October 1, 2018 at 6:12 AM

  4. Lovely golden yellow senna flowers!


    September 29, 2018 at 8:11 PM

  5. Such a lovely yellow and the dew adds to the prettiness.

    Steve Gingold

    September 30, 2018 at 4:06 AM

    • Dew is usually more your province than mine. This time I was at the site even before sunrise.

      Steve Schwartzman

      September 30, 2018 at 6:44 AM

      • Commendable. But, of course, the later sunrises make it a bit less painful.

        Steve Gingold

        September 30, 2018 at 8:02 AM

        • I still had to wait a good while after sunrise for enough light to reach the wildflowers that were my subjects.

          Steve Schwartzman

          September 30, 2018 at 10:00 AM

  6. Wonderful images Steve !!

    Bernie Kasper

    September 30, 2018 at 1:13 PM

    • Thanks. I’m pleased that you like the pictures. I look forward to Lindheimer’s senna flowers each fall.

      Steve Schwartzman

      September 30, 2018 at 1:35 PM

  7. A cheerful sight. As you look forward to your first sighting of Lindheimer’s senna, we look forward to the yellow blooms of the kowhai. I saw many lovely specimens this afternoon, (in my neighbourhood) but didn’t take any photos. Blogger Su Leslie, in Auckland, did take a photo of the kowhai in her area. https://zimmerbitch.wordpress.com/2018/09/29/kowhai-flowers-feast-for-native-birds/ I like that, both North and South, our eyes are attracted to yellow at this time of year.


    October 1, 2018 at 4:39 AM

  8. […] the Lindheimer’s senna flowers (Senna lindheimeriana) that you saw last time were various kinds of insects, including several small metallic sweat […]

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