Fabaceae (pea family) Cassia

Cassia eremophila desert cassia


Said to represent the finest of Australian wild flowers, desert cassia grows as a small tree in extreme desert conditions where avoidance of evaporation has reduced the leaves to needles. Consequently, the abundant bright yellow bell flowers, which endure for quite some time, present a spectacular show. Seed pods, resembling those of acacias, contain hard shiny seeds. This small tree believes that the summer will kill it, so it providentially supplies fresh shoots from its base. Even though the top is not killed here in the Bay Area, you might as well prune to favor the new shoots. The tree produces volunteer seedlings at 836 Santa Fe Avenue, but has not reached tree size here. Cassia artemisioides may also occur in private gardens.

Name derivation: Cassia – Greek name for a species of leguminous plants providing the senna leaves and pods important to pharmacy; eremophila – Greek eremia (desert) and philos (friend), i.e., desert-lover.

About this Entry: The main text of this entry is from the book Trees of Stanford and Environs, by Ronald Bracewell, published 2005.