Chamaecrista fasciculata (Partridge Pea)

Plant Info
Also known as: Showy Partridge Pea
Family:Fabaceae (Pea)
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.

Posted by: Linnea - Hastings
on: 2018-08-03 12:53:31

Also saw these in Spring Lake Park up by the parking lot at Schaar's Bluff! Really odd looking flower and obviously enjoyed by many pollinators. Happy to find out it's native!

Posted by: Amy Tebbe - Grey Cloud Dunes SNA
on: 2018-09-24 08:47:28

Noticed these for the first time yesterday in the Grey Cloud Dunes SNA. Beautiful plant! I captured many pictures if you'd like more for the website.

Posted by: Judy - Wabasha county
on: 2019-08-13 15:46:55

A lovely volunteer in sandy soil with other perennials that were not weeded all summer!

Posted by: Charlotte Svobodny - Inver Grove Heights
on: 2019-08-23 16:09:48

First saw this one today along the MRT south of 117th St. LOVE IT! Had to find out what it was!

Posted by: Nancy Carroll - Eastern Becker County
on: 2019-09-18 12:42:33

Old farm field, dry sandy soil and full sun.

Posted by: Suzanne - Eagan
on: 2020-07-30 18:43:49

I transplanted a clump of prairie grass from Beltrami County to my home in Eagan and was surprised to see the next year that the Partridge Pea came along for the ride. I just let it be and it has propagated pretty well on its own. Interesting leaves and pretty flowers. Nice addition to my suburban prairie garden.

Posted by: Ellen Hostetler - Crow Wing County
on: 2020-08-01 09:33:09

I stopped at the Harvey Drake landing on the Mississippi River in Merrifield the other day, and this plant was growing along the shoreline among the rocks. I had never seen it before and looked it up after getting home. The flowers are quite unusual and a very vibrant yellow.

Posted by: Morgan - Stillwater
on: 2020-09-28 01:47:36

These were extremely abundant along a path at Boutwell Landing in Oak Park Heights not far from the "Historic Village" and along the little stream. They were beautiful and went on and on along the pathway.

Posted by: Teri Knight - Northfield
on: 2022-07-23 13:21:05

I love this plant. I got seeds from Prairie Moon Nursery and have let it reseed wherever it wants to! It's migrated to my butterfly garden and has started in my rain garden as well as popping up in my sidewalk!

Posted by: Josh - South Minneapolis
on: 2023-07-04 18:36:24

I really like these weirdos - they seem like a random assemblage of other plants (fern-like leaves, too-bright flowers, the pea pods). And the glands! Noticing that small ants are really interested in the glands on the stems (early July). Do they secrete something sweet?

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