No. 18. Cassia marilandica.
English Name—AMERICAN SENNA.
French Name—Senne d'amerique.
German Name—Marilandische Cassia.
Officinal Names—Senna Americana, folia, &c.
Vulgar Names—Wild Senna, Locust plant.
Authorities—Linnaeus, Michaux, Pursh, Schoepf, Coxe, Thacher, Chapman, B. Barton, W. Bart. fig. 12, Big. fig. 39, & Seq. &c.
Genus CASSIA—Calix five parted, colored, deciduous and unequal. Corolla with five unequal petals. Stamina ten, unequal and free, the three upper sterile, the three lower longer, anthers linear curved. Pistil stipitate. Pod bivalve, curved, many celled transversally—Leaves even pinnate.
Species C. MARILANDICA—Herbaceous, leaves with eight or ten pairs of oblong mucronate folioles, petiole uniglandular: racemes axillar and terminal, panicled: pods linear, flat and pendulous.
Description—Root perennial, contorted, irregular, woody, black, fibrose—Stems many, nearly smooth, upright, from three to six feet high, cylindrical and simple—Leaves alternate, not many, large, horizontal; petioles compressed, channelled above, with an ovate stipitate gland at the base, bearing from eight to ten pairs of folioles or leaflets, which are smooth, green above, pale beneath, with short uniglandular petioles, shape ovate, oblong or lanceolate entire, equal, mucronate at the end—stipules subulate, ciliate, deciduous.
Flowers of a bright or golden yellow, forming a panicle, although partly axillary and in short racemes, having each from five to fifteen flowers; peduncles furrowed, pedicels long, glandular, with short bracts. Calix colored, with five oval obtuse and unequal segments. Petals five, spatulate, concave, obtuse, unequal, two lower larger. Stamina with yellow filaments and brown anthers, the three upper filaments have abortive anthers, the three lower filaments are longest, crooked, with long rostrated anthers, all the anthers open by a terminal pore. Germ deflexed with the lower stamina and hairy, style ascending, stigma hairy. The fruits or pods are pendulous, linear, hardly curved, flat and membranaceous, a little hairy, blackish, from two to four inches long, holding from twelve to twenty seeds, or small brown beans.
History—The genus Cassia, although very striking by the structure of its flowers, varies much in its pods, and must be divided into many genera; Tournefort and Gaertnesr had separated the Cassia fistula &c. with cylindrical, pulpy, evalve pods, calling the others Senna; but Persoon, &c. called the Cassia fistula by the new name of Cathartocarpus, leaving the name of Cassia to the Sennas. This was superfluous, and if I was not unwilling to increase this confusion, I would call this species Senna riparia the name of Marilandica being also improper; it was given to it because sent first from Maryland to Europe.
Cassia is an oriental name, derived from Ketsich, name of the Cassia lignea and fistula. The genus belongs to the natural order of LEGUMINOSE, section Lomentaceous. In Linnean system it is placed in DECANDRIA monogynia, although it has only seven fertile stamina.
This plant blossoms from June to August; the best time to collect it, is in September, when the pods are ripe; since they are with the leaves, the efficient parts of the plant. It has been ascertained that this plant is more efficacious than the Senna of Egypt; it ought therefore, to supersede it altogether with us, and even to be exported to Europe: but the East India senna is said by Bigelow to be a little stronger.—The Senna of the shops is obtained from different plants, Cassia lanceolata, C. Senna, C. italica, &c. and even from Cynanchum olefolium.
Locality—Found from Massachusetts to Missouri and Georgia, in rich moist and alluvial soils, near streams principally. Very common in the western States.
Qualities—The taste of the leaves is slightly nauseous: they have no smell; they contain resin extractive and a volatile oil. The infusion and decoction have the taste of the plant; the distilled water is nauseous; the tincture is dark brown and rendered turbid by water.
Properties—All the Sennas are simple cathartics, some kinds occasion gripings and yet are not so active as rhubarb or jalap. This kind operates with mildness and certainty, at the dose of an ounce in decoction: both the leaves and pods are employed; the infusion is weaker, the tincture is less available, although stronger. They may enter into compound laxatives and cathartics, &c.
Substitutes—Senna—Cassia fistula—Rhubarb—Juglans Cinerea—Podophyllum peltatum—Castor oil, and all mild purgatives, besides the following species of Cassia; which are, however, still left active.
Remarks—Clayton and Schoepf, mentions the C. ligustrina as equal to Senna: it grows from Virginia to Georgia, has seven pairs of lanceolate, unequal folioles, and oblong curved pods.
C. chamecrista, small plant found every where in dry soils; it has many pairs of linear folioles, and large geminate flowers with two purple spots.
C. nictitans, or sensitive Senna, similar to the foregoing, but with very small flowers: common.
C. toroides, N. Sp. or sickle Senna, is perhaps the C. tora of some botanists; found from Georgia to Kentucky, it has three pairs of ovate folioles and long fulcated axillary pods.
All the American Sennas have yellow flowers.—Schoepf, says that the
Henry's figure of the American Senna is fictitious, having four pairs of folioles and regular terminal flowers.
Additions and corrections
18. CASSIA MARILANDICA—It might be tried as a substitute of the C. herpetica or Ringworm bush of the West Indies, used in baths and fomentations against herpetic eruptions. The C. occidentalis of Florida and South America has a diuretic root, the juice is used against itch and yaws. The C. chamecrista is believed to be a counterpoison of the Nightshade in Jamaica. The seeds of the C. ciliata of Louisiana are used as a substitute for coffee.