cassia fistula

Cassia (legume)

Cassia is a genus of Fabaceae in the subfamily Caesalpinioideae. Commonly called cassias, "cassia" is also the English name of Cinnamomum aromaticum in the Lauraceae (from which the spice cassiabark is derived), and some other species of Cinnamomum. In addition, the genus Cassia was for long ill-delimited with regards to the related Cassiinae - especially Senna -, many species of which were once placed herein. As a rule-of-thumb, Cassia sensu stricto contains the largest Cassiinae, usually mid-sized trees.

In the Antiquity, "cassia" - kásia (kασία), qəṣi`â (קסיה), etc - usually meant certain local or widely traded Cinnamomum species. For details, see Cassia#History.

Ecology and uses

Owing to this confusion about which species actually belong into Cassia, many references to some sort of "cassia" are less than clear; usually it is hard or even impossible if a species of the present genus, of Senna, or of Cinnamomum is meant. "Cassia gum" for example is not made from Cassia in the present sense, but from Chinese Senna (sicklepod, Senna obtusifolia), formerly known as Cassia obtusifolia, C. toroides and several other taxa in the present genus.

"Cassia" is not infrequently encountered in texts on herbalism and alternative medicine. This is usually Senna however; while both genera contain plants with medical properties those of Senna seem to be more pronounced (or are simply better-studied). Still, Golden Shower Tree (C. fistula) is unequivocally identified and considered very potent in Ayurvedic medicine, where it is called aragvadha ("disease killer"). It contains elevated quantities of anthraquinones and consequently is mainly useful against gastrointestinal conditions (e.g. constipation or acid reflux) and to still bleeding. While its fruit pulp is considered a mild remedy, the roots are said to be so potent as to render their use dangerous if not supervised by a trained professional.

There exists some culinary use for cassia. The fruit pulp of some is eaten as a refreshing treat - similar to the related tamarind - , though it is important to note that not all species have edible fruit, and at least some have poisonous seed. Of course, as noted above, consuming too much of the pulp even in species in which it is edible is likely to result in fulminant passing of stool. It is not quite clear to what extent Cassia leaves are used to brew herbal teas, as is common with those of Senna. And clearly, both Cassiinae pale by comparison to the effectively global importance of Cinnamomum aromaticum bark.

The uncertainty about identities has created considerable confusion in ritual too. The Sprig of Acacia in Freemason symbology in occasionally proposed to be actually a "cassia". Said "cassia" led to the grave of "the Widow's Son" Hiram Abiff, an allegorical master craftsman that cannot be aligned to any real-world geography more closely than the Levant. Some acacia is more often used; the typical Acacias of the region are trees much like Cassia in habitus and ecology and thus it is impossible to identify the Sprig even to subfamily rank.

Ecologically, Cassia tolerates a wide range of climates and temperatures, though it tends towards loving warmth. This and their showy flowers mane them desirable ornamental plants for parks and gardens. Aridland species are well-suited for reforestation purposes and to provide sources of natural goods and improving soil quality and stemming desertification also.

Cassia species are used as food plants by the caterpillars of some Lepidoptera. These include:

The plant pathogenic viruses Cassia yellow blotch bromovirus (Bromoviridae) and Cassia yellow spot potyvirus (Potyviridae, formerly Cassia yellow blotch virus) were first described from C. pleurocarpa and "Cassia hoffmanseggi" (a nomen nudum?), respectively

Systematics and taxonomy

There are hundreds of Cassia species, but the exact number is still not clear. The reason is that Casiia was long used as a wastebin taxon for Cassieae in general, most notably Senna and Chamaecrista with which it makes up the Cassiinae. Those species are more recently moved to more correct placements, but the process is still ongoing due to the high number of species, with more than 1000 named taxa having been described for this genus altogether.

Selected species

Formerly placed here

  • Chamaecrista absus (as C. absus L., C. babylonica, C. coccinea, C. exigua, C. foliolis, C. thonningii, C. viscida)
  • Chamaecrista fasciculata – Large-flowered Partridge Pea, Showy Partridge Pea (as C. brachiata, C. chamaecrista L., C. chamaecrista L. var. robusta, C. depressa, C. fasciculata, C. fasciculata var. puberula (Greene)J.F.Macbr., C. fasciculata var. rostrata (Wooton & Standl.) B.L.Turner, C. fisheri, C. greenei, C. littoralis, C. mississipiensis, C. pulchella Salisb., C. robusta, C. rostrata (Wooton & Standl.) Tiderstr., C. triflora Jacq., C. venosa Zuccagni)
  • Chamaecrista nictitansWild Sensitive Pea, Wild Sensitive-plant (as C. aeschinomene, C. aspera var. mohrii, C. chamaecrista L. var. nictitans, C. mimosoides L. ssp. leschenaultiana (DC.) H.Ohashi, C. multipinnata, C. nictidans, C. nictitans, C. nictitans var. hebecarpa Fernald, C. procumbens L.)
  • Senna alataCandle Bush, Candelabra Bush, Empress Candle Plant, Candlestick Tree, Ringworm Tree, "candletree"
  • Senna alexandrinaAlexandrian Senna, Egyptian Senna, Tinnevelly Senna, East Indian Senna, sene de la palthe (French)
  • Senna artemisioidesSilver Senna, Feathery Senna
  • Senna auriculataAvaram Senna, avaram, ranawara
  • Senna bicapsularisRambling Senna, Christmas Bush, Money Bush, Yellow Candlewood
  • Senna corymbosaArgentine Senna, Argentina Senna, Buttercup Bush, Flowering Senna, (Texas) Flowery Senna, Tree Senna
  • Senna covesiiDesert Senna, Coues' Senna, Rattleweed
  • Senna durangensisDurango Senna (as C. durangensis Rose)
  • Senna floribunda (as C. floribunda Cav.)
  • Senna garrettiana (as C. garrettiana)
  • Senna hebecarpaAmerican Senna, Wild Senna
  • Senna hirsuta (as C. caracasana, C. hirsuta, C. leptocarpa, C. tomentosa Arn., C. venenifera)
    • Senna hirsuta var. puberula (as C. longisiliqua Blanco, C. pubescens, C. sulcata sensu Blanco)
  • Senna insularis (as C. absus Sessé & Moc., C. insularis)
  • Senna italica (as C. italica, C. ligustrina Mill., C. obtusa Roxb., C. porturegalis)
    • Senna italica ssp. italicaNeutral Henna (as C. aschrek, C. italica ssp. italica (Mill.)Spreng., C. obovata)
  • Senna montana (as C. montana Roth., C. setigera)
  • Senna multiglandulosa (as C. albida, C. cana Steud., C. lutescens, C. multiglandulosa, C. tomentosa L.f., C. wightiana)
  • Senna obtusifoliaChinese Senna, Sicklepod, Foetid Senna, Sickle Senna, Coffeeweed, Arsenic Weed, "blunt-leaved senna", "coffee pod", "java bean"
  • Senna occidentalisCoffee Senna, Mogdad Coffee (as C. caroliniana, C. ciliata Raf., C. falcata L., C. foetida Pers., C. laevigata sensu auct. non Prain non Willd., C. macradenia, C. obliquifolia, C. occidentalis, C. occidentalis L. var. arista sensu Hassk., C. occidentalis L. var. aristata Collad., C. planisiliqua)
  • Senna pilosior (as C. bauhinioides var. pilosior, C. durangensis sensu auct. non Rose, C. pilosior)
  • Senna quinquangulata (as C. quinquangulata)
  • Senna septemtrionalis (as C. aurata, C. elegans, C. floribunda auct. non Cav., C. laevigata Willd., C. laevigata Willd. var. floribunda sensu Ghesq., C. quadrangularis, C. septemtrionalis, C. vernicosa Clos)
  • Senna siameaSiamese Senna, khi-lek (Thai) (as C. arayatensis sensu Naves, C. arborea, C. florida, C. gigantea, C. siamea, C. siamea var. puberula Kurz, C. sumatrana)
  • Senna sophera (as C. atroviridis, C. atropurpurea, C. canca, C. esculenta, C. frutescens, C. geminiflora Schrank, C. linearis, C. lineata Michx., C. occidentalis L. var. glabra DC., C. occidentalis L. var. sophera, C. patula, C. proboscidea, C. sophera, C. sopheroides, C. torosa)
    • Senna sophera var. sophera (as C. indica, C. lanceolata Link)
  • Senna spectabilis
    • Senna spectabilis var. excelsa
    • Senna spectabilis var. micans - sometimes placed in Senna macranthera
  • Senna sulfurea (as C. arborescens Vahl, C. enneaphylla, C. glauca Lam., C. petropolitana, C. sulfurea, C. surattensis auct. non Burm.f., C. surattensis Burm. f. ssp. glauca (Lam.) K.Larsen & S.S.Larsen)
  • Senna surattensis (as C. fastigiata Vahl, C. galuca, C. suffruiticosa, C. suffruticosa, C. surattensis Burm. f.)
  • Senna timoriensis (as C. arayatensis, C. exaltata, C. goensis, C. montana auct. non Roth, C. timorensis, C. timoriensis)
  • Senna tora L.Sickle Wild Sensitive-plant
  • Senna uniflora (as C. ciliata Hoffmanns., C. monantha, C. ornithopoides, C. sensitiva Jacq., C. sericea, C. uniflora)
  • Senna wislizeniWislizenus' Senna, Shrubby Senna

and many more

See also

Footnotes

References

  • (2005): Genus Cassia Version 10.01, November 2005. Retrieved 2007-DEC-20.

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