Chamaecrista fasciculata (Partridge Pea)

Plant Info
Also known as: Showy Partridge Pea
Family:Caesalpiniaceae (Senna)
Life cycle:annual
Habitat:part shade, sun; dry sandy soil; prairies, open woods, disturbed soil
Bloom season:July - September
Plant height:12 to 30 inches
Wetland Indicator Status:GP: FACU MW: FACU NCNE: FACU
MN county distribution (click map to enlarge):Minnesota county distribution map
National distribution (click map to enlarge):National distribution map

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Detailed Information

Flower: Flower shape: 5-petals Flower shape: irregular Cluster type: raceme

[photo of flowers] Racemes of 2 to 7 flowers arising from leaf axils. Flowers are 1 to 1½ inch across, with 5 rounded petals of unequal size, often a single lower one largest, the other 4 similar size with red blotches at base, opening somewhat haphazardly givng them an irregular appearance and shape. The 10 stamens are long and slender, deep maroon colored and vary greatly in length, the longest up to 1/3 inch. The style is longer than the stamens, green, slender, and curved. Sepals are narrow and sharp, a little over half the length of the petals.

Leaves and stem: Leaf attachment: alternate Leaf type: compound

[photo of leaves] Leaves are compound with 5 to 18 pairs of linear-oblong leaflets, each ½ to ¾ inch long, toothless, minutely hairly around the edges, rounded or with an abrupt minute point at the tip. The leaf stalk has a small saucer shaped gland near the base that attracts insects. A pair of leafy appendages (stipules) are attached at the leaf joint, generally triangular with a sharp point at the tip. While not a reliably common occurence, under certain conditions leaves can fold up after being touched. Stems are hairless or with short flattened hairs, growing erect when young and tending to sprawl as they grow and branch.

Fruit: Fruit type: capsule/pod

[photo of fruit] Fruit is a is flat, straight pea-like pod, 1 to 2½ inches long, about ¼ inch wide, covered with fine hairs when green but becoming smooth and brown at maturity. Pods split easily when ripe.


Partridge Pea is an early pioneer species on sandy disturbed sites, producing dense stands for a few years until later successional grasses and forbs establish. It can make a good cover crop in restorations, helping to hold the soil and crowd out weeds until deeper rooted perennials take over. This species was formerly known as Cassia fasciculata and is more typically classified as a member of the pea family (Fabaceae), though the DNR lists it as in the senna family (Caesalpiniaceae).

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More photos

Photos by K. Chayka taken in a private garden in Washington County. Photos courtesy Peter M. Dziuk taken in a restored prairie in Anoka county.


Have you seen this plant in Minnesota, or have any other comments about it?

Posted by: Jay - Grey Cloud Dunes SNA, Washington County
on: 2011-08-15 17:56:07

Very abundant species on the upper terrace, especially in the northern 2/3 of the SNA. In full bloom at this time (15 August 2011).

Posted by: Gabriel - South Minneapolis
on: 2014-06-15 16:56:21

I've grown this plant in our boulevard garden for a few years. I bought it as a single plant several years ago, and it has perpetuated itself since then by seed. It's an excellent addition to the garden. It flowers abundantly and attracts many pollinating insects for a long period in summer. It produces many seedlings, but they're easy to pull out when they're young. The roots of the seedlings show what must be little round nitrogen-fixing nodules.

Posted by: Erin - Zimmerman
on: 2014-07-21 10:17:55

This is growing abundantly on the exit ramp off of Hwy 169 N and County Rd 9 (Sherburne Wildlife Refuge Exit)

Posted by: Martin - Mankato
on: 2014-08-19 14:38:12

I have had a single plant appear this year on the edge of a garden walkway and since it looked like tropical sensitive plant I left it and since it started blooming I life it and will save some seeds for next year.

Posted by: Marylou - Hastings
on: 2017-08-05 13:56:17

There is a large group of these blooming along the western section of the bike trail in Spring Lake Park outside of Hastings. There were hundreds of honey bees enjoying them.

Posted by: Therese C - South Saint Paul
on: 2017-09-28 08:17:27

I bought this plant a church sale. It has huge purple pods and are now blooming wonderful yellow flowers. I will bring the plant in for the winter, any suggestions for me? Should I plant it out side or bring it in? ?

Posted by: K. Chayka
on: 2017-09-28 09:02:16

Therese, partridge pea is an annual. It won't survive the winter but if left outdoors will reseed itself and new plants should come up next year.

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