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Northern Wild Senna (Senna hebecarpa)

Life history

Species overview

Northern Wild Senna (Senna hebecarpa), a Wisconsin Special Concern plant, is found on river banks, floodplains and moist shoresas well as open forests or savannas. Blooming occurs from July through August. The optimal identification period for this species is July through August.

Synonyms: Cassia hebecarpa, Cassia hebecarpa var. longipila


  • Distinguishing characteristics: Stems erect and mostly glabrous above. Most likely to be confused with Senna marilandica, which has joints of its seed pod almost twice as wide as they are long, while Senna hebecarpa has joints that are about as wide as they are long. Senna marilandica also has a short, rounded petiolar gland, while Senna herbecarpa has a larger club-or ovate-shaped petiolar gland.
  • Flower characteristics: Yellow and 5-parted, but less pea-like than other genera in the family Fabaceae, 20 to 30mm wide and clustered to form a panicle at the end of the stems.
  • Fruit characteristics: Seed pod does not readily open at maturity, 7 to 12 mm long by 5 to 9 mm wide. The space around individual seeds is mostly square, seeds flat with a depressed center.
  • Leaf characteristics: Pinnately compound, leaflets 2 to 5 cm long.


  • Blooming phenology: July through August
  • Fruiting phenology:
  • Optimum time to identify: The optimal identification period for this species is July through August


  • Growth form: Forb
  • Vegetative reproduction: roots and rhizomes
  • Life cycle: Perennial
  • Comments:

State status

Status and Natural Heritage Inventory documented occurrences in Wisconsin

The table below provides information about the protected status - state and federal - and the rank (S and G Ranks) for Northern Wild Senna (Senna hebecarpa). See the Working List Key for more information about abbreviations. Counties shaded blue have documented occurrences for this species in the Wisconsin Natural Heritage Inventory database. The map is provided as a general reference of where this species has been found to date and is not meant as a range map.

Documented locations of Senna hebecarpa in the Natural Heritage Inventory Database as of July 2015.

Summary Information
State StatusSC
Federal Status in Wisconsinnone
State RankS1
Global RankG5
Tracked by NHIY

Habitats and landscapes

The Natural Heritage Inventory has developed scores indicating the degree to which each of Wisconsin's rare plant species is associated with a particular natural community or ecological landscape. This information is similar to that found in the Wildlife Action Plan for animals. As this is a work in progress, we welcome your suggestions and feedback.

General habitat information

  • Habitat description: Found on river banks, floodplains and moist shoresas well as open forests or savannas.
  • Soils: loamy or sandy soil

Natural communities

This table lists the natural communities that are associated with Northern Wild Senna. Scores for natural community associations are: "significant" association (score=3), "moderate association" (score=2) or the species can be present but is only weakly associated with the community (score=1).

Natural communities score
Floodplain Forest 3
Southern Sedge Meadow 2

Ecological landscapes

This table lists the ecological landscape association scores for Northern Wild Senna. The scores (3=High, 2=Moderate, 1=Low, 0=None) also correspond to the map.

Map of the Ecological Landscapes of Wisconsin.

Ecological landscape score
Southeast Glacial Plains 1
Western Coulee and Ridges 3

Species guidance

The Endangered Resources Program has developed avoidance measures and management guidelines for plants on the Natural Heritage Working List. These are a work in progress, and we welcome your suggestions and feedback. Sources used in developing this information can be found here.

Avoidance measures

These are specific actions designed to avoid "take" (mortality) of this species.

  • No avoidance measures have been developed for this species.

Management guidance

Management guidelines are additional considerations that may help maintain or enhance habitat for this species

  • No guidance has been developed for this species.


Northern Wild Senna Photo.

Photo © Paul Drobot.

Northern Wild Senna Photo.

Photo © Stephen L. Solheim.

Support for Wisconsin's rare plant information has been provided by the Division of Forestry, the Endangered Resources Fund and the Wisconsin Rare Plant Preservation Fund. To donate, visit the Natural Resources Foundation of Wisconsin [exit DNR].

Last revised: Wednesday, May 05, 2021
Southwest Savanna Southern Lake Michigan Coastal Western Coulees and Ridges Southeast Glacial Plains Central Sand Hills Central Lake Michigan Coastal Central Sand Plains Northern Lake Michigan Coastal Northern Lake Michigan Coastal Northeast Sands Western Prairie North Central Forest Northern Highlands Northwest Lowlands Northwest Sands Northwest Lowlands Superior Coastal Plains Forest Transition