Senna (plant)

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Cassia senna Ypey80-cropped.jpg
Senna alexandrina
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Plantae
(unranked): Angiosperms
(unranked): Eudicots
(unranked): Rosids
Order: Fabales
Family: Fabaceae
Subfamily: Caesalpinioideae
Tribe: Cassieae
Subtribe: Cassiinae
Genus: Senna
Type species
Senna alexandrina

Over 300; see text

  • Adipera Raf. 1838
  • Cassia (Mill.) Benth. 1871
  • Cassia sect. Senna (Tournefort) DC. ex Colladon 1816
  • Cassia sect. Senna sensu Benth. 1865
  • Cassia subgen. Senna Benth. 1870
  • Cathartocarpus (partim)
  • Chamaefistula (DC.) G. Don
  • Chamaesenna (DC.) Raf. ex Pittier
  • Desmodiocassia Britton & Rose
  • Diallobus
  • Earleocassia Britton
  • Echinocassia Britton & Rose
  • Gaumerocassia Britton
  • Herpetica (DC.) Raf.
  • Isandrina
  • Leonocassia Britton
  • Palmerocassia Britton
  • Peiranisia Raf.
  • Phragmocassia Britton & Rose
  • Pseudocassia Britton & Rose
  • Pterocassia Britton & Rose
  • Sciacassia Britton
  • Senna sensu Gaertn. 1791
  • Senna sensu Link 1831
  • Senna sensu Roxb. 1832
  • Sericeocassia Britton
  • Tharpia Britton & Rose
  • Vogelocassia Britton
  • Xerocassia Britton & Rose

Senna (from Arabic sanā), the sennas, is a large genus of flowering plants in the legume family Fabaceae, and the subfamily Caesalpinioideae. This diverse genus is native throughout the tropics, with a small number of species in temperate regions. The number of species is estimated to be from about 260[2] to 350.[3] The type species for the genus is Senna alexandrina. About 50 species of Senna are known in cultivation.[4]


Senna includes herbs, shrubs, and trees. The leaves are pinnate with opposite paired leaflets. The inflorescences are racemes at the ends of branches or emerging from the leaf axils. The flower has five sepals and five usually yellow petals. There are ten straight stamens. The stamens may be different sizes, and some are staminodes. The fruit is a legume pod containing several seeds.[5]


Chamaecrista, Cassia, and Senna form a monophyletic group which some authors have called Cassia sensu lato.[6] In 1982, the group was named Cassiinae and classified as a subtribe of the tribe Cassieae.[7] The tribe Cassieae contains 21 genera and is now known to be polyphyletic,[6] but the classification is still accepted because a revision of Fabaceae has yet to be published.[6]

The genus Senna has had a complex taxonomic history.[8] What is now known as Senna was included by Linnaeus in his concept of Cassia in Species Plantarum in 1753.[9] Philip Miller segregated Senna from Cassia in 1754 in the fourth edition of The Gardeners Dictionary.[10] Until 1982, many authors, following Linnaeus, did not recognize Senna and Chamaecrista, but included them in a broadly circumscribed Cassia sensu lato. Phylogenetic analyses of DNA have shown that Chamaecrista, Cassia, and Senna are all monophyletic, but the relationships between these three genera have not been resolved.[2] They are therefore shown in phylogenetic trees as a tritomy.


Bark of Senna siamea

The caterpillars of many Lepidoptera species feed on Senna plants. The black witch (Ascalapha odorata), two-barred flasher (Astraptes fulgerator), common emigrant (Catopsilia pomona), and mottled emigrant (C. pyranthe) have all been recorded on candle bush (S. alata), for example.

Senna species are pollinated by a variety of bees, especially large female bees in genera such as Xylocopa.[2] Some species also have extrafloral nectaries on the leaves or flower stalks, which attract ants, but do not benefit pollinators. The ants probably deter herbivores.[2]


Some Senna species are used as ornamental plants in landscaping. The species is adapted to many climate types.

Cassia gum, an extract of the seeds of Chinese senna (S. obtusifolia), is used as a thickening agent. The leaves and flowers of Siamese cassia (S. siamea) are used in some Southeast Asian cuisines, such as Thai and Lao cuisines. They are known as khi-lek in Thai, and are used in curries.[11]

Historically, Egyptian senna (S. alexandrina) was used as a laxative in the form of senna pods, or as herbal tea made from the leaves. Many modern laxatives contain extracts of senna. The active ingredients are several senna glycosides[12]

Fossil record[edit]

A fossil seed pod of Senna sp. from the middle Eocene epoch has been described from the Rancho clay pit in Henry County, Tennessee(United States).[13]

Species gallery[edit]

List of species[edit]

Senna comprises the following species:[14][15][16]

Species names with uncertain taxonomic status[edit]

The status of the following species is unresolved:[16]

  • Senna arequipensis H.S. Irwin & Barneby
  • Senna artemisioides (Gaudich. ex DC.) Randell
  • Senna barronfieldii (Colla) Hewson
  • Senna catingae (Harms) L.P.Queiroz
  • Senna cearensis Afr.Fern.
  • Senna charlesiana (Symon) Randell
  • Senna cuthbertsonii (F.Muell.) Randell
  • Senna ferraria (Symon) Randell
  • Senna flexuosa (Randell) Randell
  • Senna foliosa (Phil.) Zoellner & San Martin
  • Senna glaucifolia (Randell) Randell
  • Senna hamersleyensis (Symon) Randell
  • Senna lanceolata Link
  • Senna manicula (Symon) Randell
  • Senna obtusata Link
  • Senna officinalis Gaertn.
  • Senna officinalis Roxb.
  • Senna orientalis Walp.
  • Senna paposana (Phil.) Zoellner & San Martin
  • Senna pilocarina (Symon) Randell
  • Senna pleuricarpa F. Muell.
  • Senna pubescens Mart.
  • Senna ripleyi (H.S.Irwin & Barneby) H.S.Irwin & Barneby
  • Senna sensitiva Roxb.
  • Senna sericea (Symon) Albr. & Symon
  • Senna sophora Roxb.
  • Senna stowardii (S.Moore) Randell
  • Senna stricta (Randell) Randell
  • Senna symonii (Randell) Randell
  • Senna tenella Roxb.
  • Senna tomentosa Batka


  1. ^ Irwin HS, Barneby RC (1982). The American Cassiinae: A synoptical revision of Leguminosae tribe Cassieae subtribe Casiinae in the New World, Part 1 (PDF). Bronx, N.Y.: New York Botanical Garden. OCLC 8553234. b1010840. 
  2. ^ a b c d Marazzi, B.; et al. (2006). "Phylogenetic relationships within Senna (Leguminosae, Cassiinae) based on three chloroplast DNA regions: patterns in the evolution of floral symmetry and extrafloral nectaries". American Journal of Botany. 93 (2): 288–303. doi:10.3732/ajb.93.2.288. PMID 21646190. 
  3. ^ Randell, B. R. and B. A. Barlow. 1998. Senna. pp 89-138. In: A. S. George (executive editor). Flora of Australia volume 12. Australian Government Publishing Service: Canberra, Australia.
  4. ^ Huxley, A., et al. (1992). The New Royal Horticultural Society Dictionary of Gardening. The Macmillan Press, Limited: London. The Stockton Press: New York. ISBN 978-0-333-47494-5 (set).
  5. ^ Senna. Flora of China.
  6. ^ a b c Lewis, G., et al. 2005. Legumes of the World. Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew: Richmond, England. ISBN 978-1-900347-80-8
  7. ^ Irwin H. S., Barneby R. C. (1982). "The American Cassiinae: A synoptical revision of Leguminosae tribe Cassieae subtribe Cassiinae in the New World". Memoirs of the New York Botanical Garden. 35: 1–119. 
  8. ^ Singh, V. 2001. Monograph on the Indian Subtribe Cassiinae. Scientific Publishers (India): Jodhpur, India.
  9. ^ Linnaeus, C. 1753. Cassia. page 376. In: Species Plantarum volume 1. Cassia (including Senna) In:Species Plantarum volume 1 At: Biodiversity Heritage Library
  10. ^ Miller, P. 1754. The Gardeners Dictionary, Abridged 4th edition.
  11. ^ Teangpook C.; et al. (2011). "Production and nutrition of Khi Lek (Siamese cassia) curry from central Thailand" (PDF). Kasetsart. J. (Nat. Sci.). 45: 510–20. 
  12. ^ Hietala, P; Marvola, M; Parviainen, T; Lainonen, H (Aug 1987), "Laxative potency and acute toxicity of some anthraquinone derivatives, senna extracts and fractions of senna extracts", Pharmacology & toxicology, 61 (2): 153–6, doi:10.1111/j.1600-0773.1987.tb01794.x, ISSN 0901-9928, PMID 3671329 
  13. ^ The Fossil History of Leguminosae from the Eocene of Southeastern North America by Patrick S. Herendeen, Advances in Legume Systematics: Part 4, The Fossil Record, Ed. P.S. Herendeen & Dilcher, 1992, The Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, ISBN 0 947043 40 0
  14. ^ "ILDIS LegumeWeb entry for Senna". International Legume Database & Information Service. Cardiff School of Computer Science & Informatics. Retrieved 6 January 2017. 
  15. ^ a b USDA, ARS, National Genetic Resources Program. "GRIN species records of Senna". Germplasm Resources Information Network—(GRIN) [Online Database]. National Germplasm Resources Laboratory, Beltsville, Maryland. Retrieved 6 January 2017. 
  16. ^ a b "The Plant List entry for Senna". The Plant List. Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew and the Missouri Botanical Garden. 2013. Retrieved 6 January 2017. 
  17. ^ a b Senna. Integrated Taxonomic Information System (ITIS).
  18. ^ "kolomona, kalamona, heuhiuhi, uhiuhi". Hawaiian Ethnobotany Online Database. Bernice P. Bishop Museum. Retrieved 2009-03-10. 
  19. ^ "Senna gaudichaudii". Hawaiian Native Plant Propagation Database. University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa. Retrieved 2009-03-10. 
  20. ^ Senna magnifolia. The Plant List.
  21. ^ Senna notabilis. Germplasm Resources Information Network (GRIN).
  22. ^ Senna occidentalis. Germplasm Resources Information Network (GRIN).
  23. ^ Senna oligoclada. The Plant List.
  24. ^ Senna pleurocarpa. Germplasm Resources Information Network (GRIN).

External links[edit]