Home of the Practically Perfect Pink Phlox and other native plants for pollinators

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Wildflower Wednesday: Partridge Pea makes a stand

It's been half a dozen years since Partridge Pea/Chamaecrista fasciculata was a Wildflower Wednesday star. That's way too long for such a fabulous Fabaceae to sit on the sidelines.


Chamaecrista fasciculata is an annual that grows in poor sandy or gravely soil. It forms large stands if happy and you can count on blooms for several months. It has attractive blue-green pinnate leaves and showy flowers that are a brilliant yellow with a red blotch at the base and dark red anthers. The flowers grow in the leaf axils all along the sprawling stem.

It first caught my eye at Radnor Lake, growing on a hill off the Lake Trail in dry soil and high shade. A few weeks later I spotted it at Bison Park, a little mini prairie in a nearby neighborhood. When I wrote about it back in 2011, I thought for sure it would be an easy plant to establish. Friends sent me seeds, but they didn't grow. Nothing happened until I got serious and ordered seeds from Prairie Moon Nursery. What I learned was that Partridge Pea like other members of the Pea Family, harbor beneficial bacteria called rhizobia on their roots and with out the bacteria they just won't grow. PMN includes the inoculum with Partridge Pea seeds. The seeds arrived with their inoculum and following the nursery's instructions, were inoculated prior to planting them last fall*.
flowers, buds and seed capsules
 Voila! Partridge Peas made a stand and I am one happy gardener. The bees are happy, too,

Bumbles busily work the flowers in the early morning.

In researching Partridge Pea for this post I learned a couple of new things. First, those cool flowers, that the bumbles make a mad dash for every morning, have no nectar, only pollen. The bees are  attracted to the food pollen on the purple anthers, and get dusted with the reproductive pollen from the yellow anthers.  Nature is amazing and plant reproduction is so cool.
Partridge Peas are not nectarless. This is the second cool thing I learned~Nectar is produced at the base of the leaf in tiny, reddish-orange glands called nectares.
Extrafloral nectaries along the stem

Nectares are nectar-secreting glandular organ in a flower (floral) or on a leaf or stem (extrafloral). Our Wildflower Wednesday star has ENFs that are loaded with nectar and very attractive to ants and other pollinators. It keeps getting cooler.
Don't you think the ferny leaves are a great backdrop to those bright yellow flowers?
Some gardeners shy away from annuals, but, that's a mistake. Collinsea verna, Western Daisy, Sunflowers, Black-eyed Susans and Heleniums are just a few of the wonderful annuals to consider for your garden. Add Partridge Pea to the list of wildlife friendly and valuable annuals. Don't worry that it's a one season wonder, it should reseed and make a nice stand in your garden!  


 Here's what I love about it!

  • long bloom season
  • pollinator magnet
  • pretty flowers
  • ferny leaves that add texture to a garden bed
  • host plant for butterfly caterpillars. Cloudless Sulphur caterpillars will feed on both the Partridge Pea’s leaves and its flowers. You can tell which the caterpillar concentrated on by its color, which may be yellow or green.
  • ecologically valuable 
Cloudless sulfur butterfly caterpillar



The Particulars

Family: Fabaceae
Common Name: Partridge Pea, sleeping plant, showy partridge pea, prairie senna, large-flowered sensitive-pea, dwarf cassia, partridge pea senna, locust weed, golden cassia.
Botanical Name: Chamaecrista fasciculata
Annual: plant in fall with appropriate inoculant
Range: native to the Southeast and throughout much of the U.S. east of the Rockies.
Light Requirements: Full Sun, Half Sun / Half Shade
Flower Color: Yellow with a touch of red
Height: 24-36" tall
Bloom Time: July and I hope into the fall
Fruit: a straight, narrow pod 1½ to 2½ inches long, which splits along 2 sutures as it dries; the pod sides spiral to expel the seeds some distance from the parent plant. I always wondered why seed pods of legumes were twisted!
Host Plant: Cloudless Sulphur, Sleepy Orange, and Little Yellow, Ceraunus Blue and Gray Hairstreak  caterpillars. A good nectar source that also attracts many pollinators in addition to butterflies. (source)
Comments:  It's used in the USA for cover cropping, ornate flowers in native gardens, honey crop, as an annual reseeding legume for restoration and conservation plantings, and wildlife food. Its seeds are a favorite food for many birds, including bobwhite quail and endangered prairie chickens, it provides cover for wildlife, is a pioneer plant in poor and disturbed areas, improving soils as a nitrogen fixer. It grows in dense stands and the decaying stalks provide covering for birds, small mammals and waterfowl.

What ever it's called in your neck of the woods, this fabulous Fabaceae has excellent wildlife value...Not bad for an annual!
xoxogail

Thanks for stopping by to help celebrate Wildflower Wednesday. Btw, *I've written about Prairie Moon Nursery before Some catalogs are better than others do check it out.

Wildflower Wednesday is about sharing wildflowers all over this great big beautiful world. It doesn't matter if we sometimes show the same plants, how they grow and thrive in your garden is what matters most. I hope you join the celebration...It's always the fourth Wednesday of the month!





Gail Eichelberger is a gardener and therapist in Middle Tennessee. She loves wildflowers and native plants and thoroughly enjoys writing about the ones she grows at Clay and Limestone. She reminds all that the words and images are the property of the author and cannot be used without written permission.

28 comments:

  1. What a fun post! I had never grown partridge peas before until getting a plant, either at a plant share or event where we visited a member's prairie for the Facebook group, Gardening with Nature in Mind. It seems to be doing well in the spot I found for it near some trees where I garden across the street.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I am so glad you liked it Sue! It was fun to write.

      Delete
  2. What an interesting plant. I wonder if next year's dropped seeds will sprout by themselves if there is none of the necessary bacteria rhizobia in the soil? Or has it been introduced by the new seeds planted? Just wondering.
    Jeannie @ GetMeToTheCountry.blogspot.com

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I am pretty sure they will, Jeannie, they'll drop near the plant and the soil will be ready for them.

      Delete
  3. Awesome! It's common around here, too, and I love it. That last photo with the Cloudless Sulfur caterpillar is fabulous. :) Thanks for hosting!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. You are welcome Beth. Thank you for being a loyal WW participant. That caterpillar is beautiful...I was taking photos of the nectares when I spotted it.

      Delete
  4. What a cool plant! My Wildflower book says it's native here as well. Not sure I've ever seen it....I do love learning about host plants. Thanks for a lovely post!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks, Sally. Are you going to give it a try?

      Delete
  5. I have seen fields of this. It is a great plant. So pretty.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I would love to see fields of PP...the pollinators would be marvelous to watch.

      Delete
  6. I always forget this WW, because i cannot link often. Now i am in! This plant looks so similar with something we have here, or maybe another species. They really are considered weeds, at least the butterflies or moths love it.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. So glad you can link when ever you can link.

      Delete
  7. Gorgeous yellow. Such a happy colour. Hello everyone! This is my first time visiting. I think I will enjoy this link up. I love our Western Australian wildflowers and it is coming up to wildflower time - my favourite time of year. I hope you will enjoy them too.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Welcome to Clay and Limestone and Wildflower Wednesday. Your photos are fabulous!

      Delete
  8. Wow, I learned something new today--both the nectares and the bacteria the peas need to germinate. The flowers are sweet, but I especially like the foliage as well.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I would give them a try, Rose. They will love your garden. Love and appreciate the feedback!

      Delete
  9. Sweet flowers and love the leaves! Fabulous wildflower : )

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. You can grow them in Houston, Lindsey!

      Delete
  10. One of my very favorites :)

    And even though it supposedly prefers sandy or gravelly soil, I've gotta say that it's thriving here in Middle TN on my solid clay.

    I've never seen it at Radnor Lake. Going to have keep an eye out for it there.

    In fact, the only place I've seen it growing 'wild' (and even then, might have been planted) was next to a parking lot at a Florida nature reserve.

    I first sowed ~ 130 seeds from Kansas Native Plants in autumn 2015. I think I had less than five plants germinate, but several of those really thrived. Some of the seeds dropped right nearby and I gathered and scattered others. I probably have ~ 100 plants this year and would be overjoyed if I have 500 or more next year. I anticipate and hope for lots of self-sowing, but will probably get some more seeds from Prairie Moon too just to boost my changes of having an even better partridge pea show next year!

    PS - Haven't seen any quail or prairie chickens yet. Keep hoping I will! :)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Where are those prairie chickens and quail ;)

      Delete
  11. Due to technical difficulties, I am just posting today. I love yellow flowers but sandy or gravelly soil is exactly what I don't have! Always enjoy seeing the different plants that are native to your area.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I don't either, Kathy, which is why it's worth a few dollars to get seeds and try it out. Mine are on a hill so they get decent drainage and that might help.

      Delete
    2. @Kathy, I have *solid* clay. Mine are thriving in a variety of settings - both on a hillside and on flat ground that gets saturated when it rains.

      Delete
  12. This is interesting. I planted some partridge pea seeds last fall without any inoculum (maybe the seeds were somehow treated before they were shipped). Many have germinated and I am now waiting for them to flower. I've never grown these before.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi Jason. That is good to know. Maybe my garden soil was inhospitable or the seeds weren't viable. More likely bad seed! I hope you get a good stand of them. They will look great in your garden.

      Delete
  13. My only annual is inherited Californian poppies which are gradually getting elbowed aside by my plants.
    Will post tomorrow, my pictures are ready - with a bee story.

    ReplyDelete
  14. I have a carpenter bee and a Cape witch orchid for you.

    ReplyDelete
  15. Wow, much prettier than I thought! You see, I have a free pack of seeds of these, and didn't know what to do with them!

    ReplyDelete

Let us be grateful to people who make us happy;
they are the charming gardeners
who make our souls blossom.


LinkWithin

Related Posts with Thumbnails

LinkWithin

Related Posts with Thumbnails