Cassia abbreviata

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© Mark W. Skinner @ USDA-NRCS PLANTS Database

Cassia abbreviata is a single-stemmed shrub or small tree 2-15 m with a medium round canopy. Bark grey to brown, very rough on older trees. Young branchlets glabrous, pubescent or puberulous.

Leaves with petiole and rachis (5-25 cm long) eglandular. Leaflets in 5-12 pairs, petiolulate, ovate-elliptic to oblong-elliptic, sometimes elliptic-lanceolate, 1-7.5 cm long, 0.8-4.5 cm wide, rounded to obtuse or subacute at apex, usually pubescent or puberulous.

Flowers fragrant, racemes 0.5-9 cm long. Bracts persistent while flowers are open. Petals yellow, 1.5-3.5 cm long, 0.7-1.8 cm wide. Stamens 10; filaments of 3 each with an S-bend near base and a swelling half-way along their length.

Pods cylindrical, 30-90 cm long, 1.5-2.5 cm in diameter, from velvety to glabrous and blackish, transversely but not longitudinally partitioned within.

Seeds embedded in pulp, brown-black, 9-12 x 8-9 x 3 mm.

Based on petal size, pubescence and geographical distribution three subspecies, namely abbreviata Brenan, beareana (Holmes) Brenan and kassneri (Bak. f.) Brenan are recognized for C. abbreviata.

The generic name is from the Greek name 'kassia'.

Ecology

C. abbreviata commonly occurs in Acacia-Commiphora bushland, becoming rare in woodland or wooded grassland. Usually found on anthills and clayey soils. The long pod cassia is moderately fast growing, drought tolerant and can withstand moderate frost. The mature trees are fire resistant, however young seedlings are vulnerable.

Native range
Botswana, Congo, Kenya, Malawi, Mozambique, Namibia, Somalia, South Africa, Swaziland, Tanzania, Zambia, Zimbabwe

Tree management

Pollarding, coppicing, trimming and pruning are recommended management strategies. Over-watering results in poor flower display. Root trimming is necessary because the plants develop a long taproot early and should be planted out in 1-2 weeks.

Soaking in hot water improves seed germination. Seeds germinate 4-10 days after sowing.

C. abbreviata commonly occurs in Acacia-Commiphora bushland, becoming rare in woodland or wooded grassland. Usually found on anthills and clayey soils. The long pod cassia is moderately fast growing, drought tolerant and can withstand moderate frost. The mature trees are fire resistant, however young seedlings are vulnerable.

Propagated by seedlings and wildings. Seeds are sown in a sand:compost mixture (1:1) and should be kept warm and moist. It is better to sow seed directly into polythene bags or into the ground.

Erosion control:  This deeply rooting tree is important in soil conservation and erosion control.

Young branches are browsed by wildlife, the fruit pulp and seeds are popular with birds.

Tree a useful source of charcoal and firewood.

Timber:  Timber heavy (896 kg/cu. m), dark brown, coarse-grained heartwood with pale blotches, used in house construction.

Shade or shelter:  It provides shade.

Tannin or dyestuff:  Stem bark is used in dyeing.

Medicine:  Root decoction used in treating gastrointestinal disorders, malaria, gonorrhoea, pneumonia, uterus complaints and as a purgative. Stem bark used to treat dysentery, diarrhoea, gonorrhoea, toothache, blackwater fever, abdominal pains and as an abortifacient. Smoke of burnt branches inhaled to relieve headaches. The laxative activity of most Cassia spp. is linked to the anthraquinone emodin and its associated glycosides. Methanolic extracts of the stem bark antagonized responses to acetylcholine and serotonin in a concentration-dependent manner.

Ornamental:  C. abbreviata is a showy tree with a beautiful yellow bloom, persisting fruit pods and good form. It is an ideal choice for gardens and avenues and interesting tree to train as a bonsai.

Soil improver:  The slow decomposing leaves are ideal for mulching.

Intercropping:  Has great potential for intercropping, deeply rooting, therefore is unlikely to compete with crops for mineral nutrients and water.

Other services:  The smell of crushed C. abbreviata leaves is said to drive snakes from their holes.