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Boned by $.99 Ebay seeds: this is NOT Sweet Cicely, so what is it?

 
Dan Boone
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At some point last year I saw various internet mentions of the herb "Sweet Cicely", an anise-family aromatic that goes well with rhubarb. It seemed relevant to my interests so I ordered up some seeds on Ebay:



The thumbnail picture matches Burra's nice photo in this thread:



The seeds came in a clear ziploc baggie with the words "sweet cicely" on a laser-printed white label. They grew indifferently in my garden this summer, and I didn't pay them much mind except to nibble a leaf now and then. My sense was that they were tough and flavorless and not very aromatic, but honestly I'd forgotten why I had planted this herb, and I had a vague memory that the seeds were special, so I thought I'd wait for them to go to seed. Eventually they did, but when I busted open a seed pod, the seeds had no particular smell or flavor or sweetness either. Eventually it dawned on me that whatever I had grown, it wasn't sweet cicely. As indeed it is not:





So, what the heck did I grow? It looks vaguely leguminous, and the long spearlike seed pods are impressive, but... what is it? Anybody recognize it?
 
Judith Browning
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It looks a lot like yellow senna....I was given some seeds and grew them last year but never figured out what to do with it. There are many sennas though so yours may be a different one. did it form a bushy plant? I just cut it all a few weeks ago because I wasn't sure the sheep should eat it...I saved some seed though because I like how it looks and I think it might be useful as a dye plant. Funny it got mixed up with sweet cicely
My seed pods were long like that but with a bit of a curve...covering the healthiest of the plants....they grew differently in different places in the garden...some were very small plants but still had seed pods.
 
Dan Boone
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Hi, Judith. Thanks for that suggestion! Upon Googling it, I believe it may indeed be a senna, however there seem to be about fifty different ones. Whether the pods are curved or straight appears to be a common distinguishing feature, along with the leaf tips (rounded or pointed). Most of the pictures I could find have vividly yellow flowers, though, while the ones on my plant were so pale I had a hard time distinguishing them from the leaves except by shape. (I do however have a color vision problem so my color observations are unreliable.)

From the pictures I found, I think it might be Senna obtusifolia or Senna tora. Which are weeds a lot of places and not very useful to me. Dang that Ebay seller!
 
Judith Browning
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the flowers in your first post look very yellow to me
I have a good picture of mine somewhere, can't remember if the leaves were pointed or not and when I saw the number of possibilities I gave up trying to figure out which one I had...seems they all had similar medicinal properties though.
 
Dan Boone
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Judith Browning wrote:the flowers in your first post look very yellow to me


This is a classic illustration of the weirdness of my color vision. You give me a color against a neutral background in good light and I can frequently ID it, although yellow versus green and the whole grey/pink/purple/blue morass often catches me out. Where I get in the most trouble, though, is in color contrasts. Give me a huge mass of green leaves and I will stare at it all day without spotting the yellow flower or the red fruit. They look enough alike to me that I simply don't notice the non-dominant color.

However, every photo I've seen on the internet of the Senna family has flowers that look bright yellow to me. The flowers in my picture I can barely tell are yellow. They are -- in the weird color taxonomy in my head that nobody but me understands -- as different a color from the bright yellow internet Senna flowers as blue is from green.

All of which explains why I generally try not to discuss colors with normal people.
 
Bill Erickson
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I agree. Here's the link: http://stoves2.com
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