Sensitive Partridge Pea – Chamaecrista nictitans

Sensitive Partfidge Pea taken at Cape May, New Jersey
Sensitive Partfidge Pea taken at Cape May, New Jersey

Recoiling from the touch
Of him who seeks too much,
A dainty thing thou art,
Whose sweetness seems a part
Of all that round thee grows;
More subtle than the rose,
Thy faint perfume scarce fills
The lambent air, yet thrills
Like nectar, till one feels
Thy shyness half conceals
A deeper ecstacy
Than e’er he dreamed to be…

W. C. Campbell

 

This sensitive plant is native to North America, from Arizona to Maine south to Florida and Texas. It is found on disturbed ground. The flowers are irregular in shape, yellow and have reddish-orange stamens. They bloom from spring through fall. In New Hampshire they are considered Endangered. Like the pink sensitive plant of South America, the leaves are sensitive to touch, closing at the slightest motion.

This plant was used historically by the Shakers; Cherokee and Seminole Indians also utilized it for medicine. It was used as a tonic to prevent tiring (root), plant infusion to treat nausea and vomiting, as a decoction to treat urinary tract infections, and the leaves were used to treat topical infections.

This plant was not used for food, but several tribal peoples used to line a pit with the plants. They then placed persimmons in between layers of plant material, and then allowed the persimmons to ripen in the pit.

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