Portraits of Wildflowers

Perspectives on Nature Photography

Slenderpod sesbania

with 33 comments


I made this more-is-more portrait of drying-out Sesbania herbacea plants in the northeast quadrant of Mopac and US 183 on November 1st. Because this species grows in many places, it has accumulated a bunch of common names: slenderpod sesbania, hemp sesbania, coffee-bean, danglepod, coffeeweed, Colorado River-hemp, and peatree sesbania. The photograph confirms that the first of those names is accurate; the pods really are slender, measuring 10–20 cm in length but only 3–4 mm in width.

One of the plants was conspicuously fasciated, as you see in the second picture.
You might also say it was having a bad-hair day.


And here’s an unrelated thought for today (with the original spelling and capitalization): “we have spent the prime of our lives in procuring them the precious blessing of liberty. let them spend theirs in shewing that it is the great parent of science & of virtue; and that a nation will be great in both always in proportion as it is free.” — Thomas Jefferson, letter to Joseph Willard, 1789.


© 2020 Steven Schwartzman




Written by Steve Schwartzman

November 16, 2020 at 4:40 AM

33 Responses

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  1. An interesting high rise tangle. And a good, untangled quotation, new to me. Although it seems in recent years, virtue and science have been shewn to be orphans in the U.S.

    Robert Parker

    November 16, 2020 at 4:56 AM

    • You made a good segue from a literal to a figurative tangle in your first two sentences. I’ve noticed in recent years that science has become increasingly politicized, much to my regret. That even includes my familiar subject, mathematics.

      Steve Schwartzman

      November 16, 2020 at 7:23 AM

  2. The layers of blue sky and cloud make a lovely background, and managed to showcase the slenderpod nicely. I wonder how many seeds are in a pod? Some plant species can produce hundreds of seeds in one pod, and the seeds can be viable for many years.


    November 16, 2020 at 7:02 AM

    • Now you make me wish I’d opened one pod to see how many seeds it contained and what shape they were. If I get the chance, I’ll do that and report back. Along the lines of your last sentence, I’ve read that some kinds of seeds lie dormant in the ground for decades before sprouting.

      Steve Schwartzman

      November 16, 2020 at 7:29 AM

      • Yes, I know some of the burr-type pods we see here can take 25 years or more to germinate! I would think those Slenderpod seeds would disperse well in the wind.


        November 16, 2020 at 7:33 AM

        • Given the slenderness of the sesbania pods, the seeds couldn’t be very big, and might well be blown about by the wind. Your mention of burr-type pods reminds me that in places where I’ve recently come across slenderpod sesbania I’ve also found cockleburs (Xanthium strumarium). Both species seem to thrive at the edges of bodies of still water, or in ground that otherwise gets wet.

          Steve Schwartzman

          November 16, 2020 at 7:45 AM

          • Good observation! I’ve battled cockleburs around our slough for years. Much of the pecan orchard property is zoned as a wetland area, so no wonder they keep thriving there! I have finally given up trying to keep them under control. They spread effectively on wildlife passing through. I often pick them off of the deer. They’re almost impossible to remove from cattle.


            November 16, 2020 at 7:53 AM

            • Like prickly pears, you have to deal with cockleburs as a practical matter, while I look at both strictly as subjects for portraits. Have you noticed the characteristic scent of cocklebur plants? I can’t decided if I like it or not.

              Steve Schwartzman

              November 16, 2020 at 8:01 AM

              • I can’t say I’ve ever noticed a scent. I’ll have to pay more attention next year. Right now the plants are dried up, so they probably won’t have a scent any longer… or will they?


                November 16, 2020 at 7:45 PM

  3. The slenderpod sesbania seems from the looks of it a plant that prefers to grow in dry areas. As shown in your beautiful pictures, the grass-like plant appears to be at the end of its life cycle. I like the expression of a bad hair day, Steve. With so little hair left on my head, I don’t have this problem. Haha!

    Peter Klopp

    November 16, 2020 at 8:21 AM

    • Then you can think back nostalgically to times gone by. “Where are the hairs of yesteryear?”, to modify Dante Gabriel Rossetti’s version of François Villon’s “Mais où sont les neiges d’antan?”

      You’re correct about the plants shown here being at the end of their annual cycle, however slenderpod sesbania likes to grow at the edges of bodies of still water or in ground that otherwise gets wet. That was the case here in a low-lying area that often collects water. The site was mostly dry when I visited on November 1st, but a few months earlier the ground was so sodden that I had to wear rubber boots to walk through there.

      Steve Schwartzman

      November 16, 2020 at 8:34 AM

  4. Your photos of dried plants going into late fall are beautiful and artistic.

    Lavinia Ross

    November 16, 2020 at 10:01 AM

    • I’m pleased to hear you say that. Thanks. I’ve spent time recently on other late-stage plants, some of which will appear here in the weeks ahead.

      Steve Schwartzman

      November 16, 2020 at 12:14 PM

  5. […] trees, Salix negra. The brown stalks in the back are slenderpod sesbania, Sesbania herbacea, which you saw more fully last time. The tan arcs front and center are the dry leaves of a young cattail, Typha sp. The second picture […]

  6. As soon as I saw Sesbania, I thought of our bagpod: Sesbania vesicaria. The pods certainly differ. As I recall, the bagpod/bladderpod has only two or three seeds in each plump little pod.

    That’s one of the loveliest fasciations you’ve shown. It’s a nice complement to that sweet tangle of branches and pods. I wondered if the seeds have been dried and ground like coffee, but an article published by the Missouri Department of Conservation notes that the plant is poisonous. Someone may have tried it as a beverage once upon a time, but it’s clearly not advisable.

    That same article notes that “the seeds are small and numerous, about 1/8 to 3/16 inch long and 1/16 inch wide. The seeds are more or less orange on their attachment side, with the other surface possessing a more or less olive-green background, speckled or blotched with black.”


    November 17, 2020 at 7:17 PM

    • You’ve done the work for me, though I’ll still try to open a pod if I get the chance. The coffee in a couple of the common names puzzled me. It still does, given what you say about the plant being poisonous.

      I remember the forest of Sesbania vesicaria (now apparently Glottidium vesicarium) in your area last year, whose pods are so different. We have some in Travis County, too, along with Sesbania drummondii, which has somewhat similar pods.

      Your phrase “sweet tangle” sounds good. Last week I photographed an even denser, and therefore sweeter, tangle in the place that features in the next post. The fasciation surprised me, as it’s the only one I’ve ever found in a sesbania. You can imagine that I took pictures of it from various angles and distances.

      Steve Schwartzman

      November 17, 2020 at 7:48 PM

  7. Ooo, I like this plant. I would have so much fun in your neck of the woods!! Great photos!


    November 20, 2020 at 11:05 AM

    • Once the pandemic is all panned out, you’ll have to consider a visit to Texas. Spring is most people’s favorite time because of all the wildflowers, but autumn has its charms, too.

      Steve Schwartzman

      November 20, 2020 at 11:50 AM

      • I believe you! And it’s such a big state, with interesting things in every corner, that it would be hard to decide where to begin. I suppose it would be some major airport. 😉


        November 20, 2020 at 7:34 PM

  8. Hey, I remember one of these from Palm Springs. It might have been the same species, but I believe it was something that was endemic to a small range near Mount San Jacinto.


    November 26, 2020 at 12:05 PM

  9. […] allow orange to shade toward tan and brown, then how about this long colony of slenderpod sesbania (Sesbania herbacea) stretched out along the edge of another pond at the site? The trees lined up parallel to them are […]

  10. Maybe it’s having a bad hair day. Maybe it likes to “dance outside of the lines” (aus der Reihe tanzen). Or maybe it just likes to be different.


    May 19, 2022 at 2:08 PM

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