Chamaecrista nictitans (L.) Moench

Small-Flowered Partridge-Pea


CC = 2
CW = 3
MOC = 58

© SRTurner

Family - Fabaceae/Caesalpinioideae

Habit - Taprooted annual forb, with nodules present on roots.

Stems - Ascending to erect, to 40 cm, widely branching above the base, herbaceous but stout at the base, antrorse pubescent.

Chamaecrista_nictitans_stem.jpg Stem.

© SRTurner

Leaves - Alternate, stipulate, even-pinnate, with 6-18 pairs of leaflets. Stipules erect, appressed, narrowly lanceolate-triangular, usually somewhat asymmetric, acuminate, conspicuously nerved, 3-6 mm long, 1.2-1.4 mm wide at the base, green but often with a reddish apex, glabrous or inconspicuously hairy. Gland of the petiole 0.5-1.0 mm long, usually stalked, purplish. Petiole and rachis antrorsely pubescent. Leaflets sessile, opposite, entire, 6-10 mm long, 1-2 mm broad, oblong, oblique at the base, mucronate, glabrous or minutely hairy, deep green adaxially, light green abaxially, lateral veins evident abaxially.

Chamaecrista_nictitans_stipule.jpg Stipule (white) and gland (red).

© DETenaglia

Chamaecrista_nictitans_leaf1.jpg Leaf.

© SRTurner

Inflorescence - Axillary, of solitary or paired flowers, the stalks 2-3 mm long, the bracts linear-lanceolate, 1.5-2.0 mm long, exceeding the pedicel. Pedicels short, to 1.2 mm long.

Chamaecrista_nictitans_inflorescence.jpg Inflorescence.

© SRTurner

Flowers - Strongly asymmetric, 8-10 mm in diameter. Sepals 3-4 mm long, lanceolate, sharply pointed, hairy. Petals dimorphic, glabrous, with 1 larger petal 4-6 mm long, 3-4 mm wide, obovate, tapered to a stalklike base; and 4 smaller petals 2.6-3.0 mm long, 1.5-2.0 mm wide, yellow. Stamens 5 (rarely with 1 or 2 additional smaller staminodes), slightly unequal, oriented toward the lower side of the flower, glabrous, the filaments whitish, short (to 1.2 mm long), the anthers 1.4-2.0 mm long, purplish or reddish, apically dehiscent. Ovary 1.5-2.0 mm long, green, hairy, the style 1.4-1.6 mm long, greenish, glabrous.

Chamaecrista_nictitans_flower.jpg Flower.

© DETenaglia


© SRTurner

Chamaecrista_nictitans_calyx.jpg Calyx.

© DETenaglia

Fruits - Legumes 2.0-3.5 cm long, 4-5 mm wide, finely hairy. Seeds 3.0-3.2 mm long, 1.5-2.0 mm wide, nearly square, the surfaces finely pitted, dark brown, shiny.

Chamaecrista_nictitans_fruits.jpg Fruits.

© DETenaglia

Flowering - July - September.

Habitat - Glades, forest openings, bluff ledges, fields, pastures, roadsides, railroads. Usually on acid soils.

Origin - Native to the U.S.

Lookalikes - Chamaecrista fasciculata.

Other info. - This little species can be found in Missouri mainly south of the Missouri River. Its U.S. range encompasses the southeastern and New England portions of the country. When in flower, the plant is easy to ID because of its small yellow flowers and finely pinnate leaves. In the absence of flowers it is difficult to distinguish from its showier sibling, C. fasciculata.

The leaves are sensitive to the touch and will close when touched or struck by strong sunlight. This action, however, is not nearly as quick or dramatic as it is in other species from the family. Traditionally the roots of this species were used to make a tea that was believed to relieve fatigue. The fruits can be glabrous or hairy and are eaten by wildlife.

Photographs taken in Brown Summit, NC., 9-8-02 (DETenaglia); also at Holly Ridge Conservation Area, Stoddard County, MO, 8-15-2009 and 8-16-2021, and Sand Prairie Conservation Area, Scott County, MO, 8-12-2015 (SRTurner).