Chamaecrista nictitans

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A short-lived sub-shub with pinnate foliage and solitary flowers.

Pinnate foliage and solitary flowers.


Single stem with solitary, typically "Caesalpinioideae" flowers.


Semi-erect to erect sub-shrub - with potential for cut and carry.

Semi-erect to erect sub-shrub - with potential for cut and carry.

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Scientific name

Chamaecrista nictitans (L.) Moench


Cassia aspera Elliott var. mohrii Pollard
Cassia chamaecrista L. var. nictitans Kuntze
Cassia multipinnata Pollard
Cassia multipinnata Pollard var. nashii Pollard
Cassia nictitans L.
Cassia nictitans L. var. conmixta (Pollard & Maxon) Millsp.
Cassia nictitans L. var. hebecarpa Fern.
Cassia nictitans L. var. leiocarpa Fern.
Cassia nictitans L. var. mohrii (Pollard) Macbr.
Cassia nictitans L. var. multipinnata (Pollard) Macbr.
Cassia procumbens L.
Chamaecrista aspera (Elliott) Greene var. mohrii (Pollard) Pollard
Chamaecrista mohrii (Pollard) Britton & Rose
Chamaecrista multipinnata Pennell
Chamaecrista nictitans (L.) Moench var. conmixta Pollard & Maxon
Chamaecrista nictitans (L.) Moench var. leiocarpa (Fern.) Mold.
Chamaecrista procumbens (L.) Greene
Nictitella amena Raf.


Family: Fabaceae (alt. Leguminosae) subfamily: Caesalpinioideae tribe: Cassieae subtribe: Cassiinae. Also placed in: Caesalpiniaceae.

Common names

partridge pea, sensitive partridge-pea, sensitive-pea, wild sensitive-plant.

Morphological description

An annual herbaceous plant to 50 cm in height. Stems covered in dense hairs (trichomes) although glabrous variants occur.  Leaves alternate, compound pinnate with 10-25 opposite pairs of leaflets.  Leaflets narrow with pinnate venation, oblong with small spines on the tips.  Leaves sometimes sensitive to touch, folding when disturbed.  Petiole gland stalked, positioned below the last pair of leaflets.  The size and shape of the gland is a character in determining the variety.
Flowers solitary , complete, irregular in shape, yellow, up to 1.4 cm wide, arising from the leaf axils; 5 petals, the lower larger and more spreading than the others.  Thousand seed weight = 2.2 g (455 seeds/g).


Found in open woods prairies, thickets, wet or dry shores, on sandy soils, commonly in disturbed habitats throughout most of eastern North America.  Also occurs in the south-central and south-western United States.
Native to:
United States, Mexico, Belize, Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua, Panama, Aruba, Bahamas, Cuba, Grenada, Guadeloupe, Hispaniola, Jamaica, Martinique, Netherlands Antilles, Puerto Rico, St. Kitts and Nevis, St. Vincent and Grenadines, Trinidad, Virgin Islands, French Guiana, Guyana, Suriname, Venezuela, Brazil, Bolivia, Colombia, Ecuador, Peru, Argentina, Paraguay.

Naturalized in:
Tropical & subtropical Asia & elsewhere.


Potential as an annual, or possibly perennial cut-and-carry forage or hay for sub-tropical acid-infertile environments based on plot trials in southern China.  Pollen source for bees.
Used as a remedy for stomach ache and fever.


Soil requirements

Native to a wide range of soil types but most prevalent on free-draining sands of acid to neutral reaction.


Paraguayan accessions come from 1,300-1,600 mm annual rainfall regions.


Paraguayan accessions come from regions with average annual temperatures of 22-23ºC.


No information available.

Reproductive development

Flowers July to September in its northern hemisphere native range.


Persistent in cutting trials, but may be better treated as an annual when used as a cut-and-carry forage in sub-tropical environments.  Recruitment will occur from seed, but grasses and weeds will progressively invade pure swards.


No information available.


Guidelines for the establishment and management of sown pastures.


Scarified seed germinates quickly after rainfall but hard seed will require weathering to break the integrity of the seed coat to enable germination. Seedlings grow rapidly and early-flowering types can flower within 6 weeks.
Chamaecrista appears to nodulate readily with native rhizobia, although a very high rate of nodulation was achieved on acid-soils in southern China by inoculating with CB756.
Excellent winter survival and recruitment from seed in experimental plots.


Successful establishment into acid soils has been achieved with the addition of 750 kg/ha lime, 25 kg/ha N, 40 kg/ha P and 50 kg/ha K.

Compatibility (with other species)

Probably best planted as a pure sward for cutting as hay, silage or forage .  Recruitment will be reduced in the presence of other species.

Companion species

Probably has most potential as a single species grown in a fodder bank for use as cut-and-carry.

Pests and diseases

No information available.

Ability to spread

Recruits readily from seed.

Weed potential

No information available.

Feeding value

Nutritive value

For highest nutritive value for hay production, harvest at early flowering when leaf percentage and crude protein content are high.


Based on a single, short-term, cafeteria-style palatability trial, C. nictitans was more palatable to goats than C. rotundifolia cv. Wynn.


None reported.

Production potential

Dry matter

High yield potential as a cut-and-carry forage in acid-infertile, sub-tropical environments, including those with cold winters.  Maximum production is likely to be achieved by replanting each year, rather than by locking up to produce seed.

Animal production

No trials have been conducted to assess animal production.  Is grazed by a range of herbivores in its native range.


The species is endemic to diverse climatic regions from northern USA to southern Paraguay and may possess significant genetic variability.  Only accessions from Paraguay have been assessed to date.  No breeding programs are currently being undertaken.

Seed production

No information available.

Herbicide effects

Unknown. Likely to be similar to C. rotundifolia .



Other comments

Growing to more than double the height of C. rotundifolia cv. Wynn, C. nictitans has potential for hay production, silage or as cut-and-carry forage .
Apparently highly specific in its rhizobium requirements.

Selected references

Hacker, JB,  Shilin, W, Zhaoyang, Y. and Pengelly BC. (2001) Selecting Chamaecrista spp. for soil stabilisation and forage in southern China. Tropical Grasslands, 35, 96-113.

Luo Tao, Weng Boqi, Lin Yunqin, Huang Dongfeng and Wang Fei (2003) Dynamics of Dry-Matter Yields and NPK Contents in Three Species of Cassia. Acta Prataculturae Sinica, 12, 94-98.

Internet links



Country/date released


None released to date.          

Promising accessions

Promising accessions



ATF 2217, ATF 2219 China - accessions ex-Paraguay Showed promise as cut and carry forages, re-establishing from seed and producing good yields in the acid-infertile soils.  ATF 2217 survived the winter at Fujian Province.  ATF 2217 and ATF 2219 were collected in Paraguay, 25º 30'S and 27º 05'S respectively, in pH 6 soil.