|Senna, any plant of the genus Sennia (formerly placed in Cassia), leguminous herbs, shrubs, and trees of the family Leguminosae (pulse family), most common in warm regions. Some species are cultivated for ornament, but sennas are best known as medicinal plants. The dried leaves are used as a purgative and are chiefly obtained from S. acutifolia (Alexandria senna) and S. angustifolia (Indian senna); both trees are cultivated especially in S India. The wild senna (S. marylandica), a perennial of the E United States, has been similarly used. Golden shower (S. fistula) of India yields canafistula, a purgative extracted from the fruit pulp. The young shoots of several wild species are used for food and the seeds for a coffee substitute. S. nictitans, a North American herb, is sometimes called wild sensitive plant because its leaves respond to touch as do those of the true sensitive plant, a mimosa. Senna is classified in the division Magnoliophyta, class Magnoliopsida, order Rosales, family Leguminosae.
Senna alexandrina (Alexandrian Senna, and see below) is an ornamental plant in the genus Senna. It is also used in herbalism. It grows natively in upper Egypt, especially in the Nubian region, and near Khartoum (Sudan), where it is cultivated commercially. It is also grown elsewhere, notably in India and Somalia.
Alexandrian Senna is a shrubby plant that reaches 0.5-1, rarely two meters in height with branched pale green erect stem, long spreading branches, bearing four or five pairs of leaves. These are complex feathery mutual pairs. The leaflets are varying from 4 to 6 pairs, fully edged, with a sharp top. The midribs are equally divided at the base of the leaflets. The flowers are in a raceme interior[verification needed] blossoms, big in size, coloured yellow that tends to brown. Its legume fruit are horned, broadly oblong, compressed and flat and contain about six seeds.
When cultured, twice a year the plants are cut down, dried in the sun, stripped and packed in palm-leaf bags and sent on camels to Essouan and Darao, then up the Nile to Cairo or else to Red Sea ports. For the nomadic Ababda for example, trade in senna provides a significant source of income.
Names and taxonomy
S. alexandrina is also known under the names Egyptian Senna, Tinnevelly Senna, East Indian Senna or the French sene de la palthe
It received the names "Alexandrian Senna" and "Egyptian Senna" because Alexandria in Egypt was the main trade port in past times. The fruits and leaves were transported from Nubia and Sudan and other places to Alexandria then from it and across the Mediterranean sea to Europe and adjacent Asia.
Though it might look like a scientific name, Cassia Officinalis is actually the apothecary term for this plant, and hence Officinalis - the Latin adjective denoting tools, utensils and medical compounds - is written with a large "o", unlike in specific names which are always written small today.
Cassia acutifolia Delile
Cassia alexandrina (Garsault) Thell.
Cassia angustifolia M. Vahl
Cassia lanceolata Collad.[verification needed]
C. lanceolata Link is a synonym of Senna sophera var. sophera)
C. lanceolata Pers. is a synonym of Chamaecrista desvauxii var. mollissima
Cassia lenitiva Bisch.[verification needed]
Cassia senna L.
Senna acutifolia (Delile) Batka
Senna alexandrina Garsault
Senna angustifolia (Vahl) Batka
Un-identified book plant list "Index of the Flowers and Plants in 16th and 17th Century Gardens"
The Plant-Lore and Garden-Craft of Shakespeare by Henry N. Ellacombe. W. Satchell and Company, London, 1884