Should It Stay Or Should It Go?

Step one when a new plant just appears out of the bright, blue sky (most seeds are airborne), is identification. This usually means allowing it to grow on and flower. Flowers help a great deal with figuring out what is who. My go to for wildflower plant ID is my friend Gail of Clay and Limestone who hosts Wildflower Wednesday on the fourth such day of each month.

Step two is research from the all-knowing internet. Several sources are checked, if available to verify the veracity of each. Photos are compared with those online as well as the growth habit descriptions.

Step three is to determine if the plant is garden worthy. This must be done quickly once seed pods have formed, in case this is not a desirable denizen.

This is Sesbania exaltata, syn. Sesbania macrocarpa and Sesbania herbacea. Research revealed that S. exaltata occurs along ditches, roadsides, fields, disturbed sites, river banks and lake shores throughout Florida westward to southern California and northward to New York. It is also found in Central America.

It is an erect annual, reaching 3-6 feet in height, with distinctive seed pods and showy yellow flowers. Primarily a weed of agronomic crops found in the coastal plain but occasionally in the piedmonts of North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, Florida, Alabama, Mississippi, and Virginia and let us add to that list, Tennessee.

Hemp sesbania, one of the common names along with coffeeweed, Colorado River hemp and bigpod sesbania, may also be confused with Partridgepea Cassia fasciculata, however partridgepea only has 16 to 30 leaflets per leaf and also has a distinctive spherical gland near the base of each leaf petiole. I was really hoping it was the partridgepea, but alas, it is not, so …

Say goodbye to Sesbania exaltata, it had to go now.


Sing along with The Clash, head banging and playing your best air guitar:


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23 Responses to Should It Stay Or Should It Go?

  1. The partridge pea volunteered itself in my garden this summer. Even got some cloudless sulphur caterpillars on it. So exciting! Will try to collect some seeds to grow some more plants for the garden. Your volunteer looks very similar however, the seed pods are quite different.

    Lucky you, Karin! I was hoping that this would be that sweet native, it does certainly look similar. In a more out of the way spot, it would have been allowed to stay.

  2. gail says:

    Dear Frances, I love when really neat plants find there way to my garden, but, occasionally some just aren’t worth the hassle (like the Mimosa Tree I’ve spotted in the middle of a flower bed). Too bad this one had to have such an interesting look, but, you’ve made the right decision! Happiest of Wildflower Wednesdays to you. xoxogail PS I did plant Partridge Pea seeds~I hope they germinate!

    Thanks for the support, Gail. It was simply too large a plant for that spot. It comes up nearly every year, it seemed, although an annual. Good luck with that partridge pea!

  3. Lisa at Greenbow says:

    Any plant that is six foot tall is a little scary. I hope a partridge pea creeps into your garden. It would be much better.

    Yes, Lisa, the size had a lot to do with this plant being dug out. If it was about one to two feet high, with those pretty pea flowers, it would have stayed.

  4. Jill says:

    Always fun to have a “surprise” show up. The birds, chipmunks and squirrels are great for leaving us little gifts throughout the flower and vegetable gardens. I always let them go until the flowers appear, unfortunately, sometimes they are so large by that time a shovel is required to help them leave!!! Partridge peas are lovely, wouldn’t mind some of those myself…

    It is fun, Jill, even if it turns out to be an undesirable plant. I do love surprises. Partridge pea is now on my radar.

  5. Interesting and attractive flower, without a doubt, although it does look a bit gawky in the spot. I have waited patiently a time or two for an uninvited guest to fully reveal itself but it usually ends with visitation rights abruptly terminated!

    It is interesting, Michaele, and attractive. Gawky is the word for the location in which it decided to grow. There are places where it would blend in much better. It is gone now.

  6. Anne Boykin says:

    I have a volunteer right now I’m trying to identify in my garden. So far it’s been well behaved so I’ve left it alone. I really enjoy your posts.

    Thanks Anne, your kind words mean a lot to me. The volunteer plants that arise in our gardens are part of the wonders of the universe, aren’t they? Not always good guys, but still fun to learn about them.

  7. Randy says:

    Frances, I have hundreds of those coming up in the garden this year and I have no idea where the seeds are coming from. I keep grabbing them while they are little and pulling them up.

    Yikes Randy! That is way too many of these tall guys. I am glad I didn’t let the seeds mature and drop to the ground. We only ever get one plant at a time, I was surprised to read it is an annual, it always comes back in the same spot. Nice to see you!

  8. Dee A. Nash says:

    Usually the plants that blow in here are “must goes.” Thanks for the excellent info Gail and Frances. I appreciate your working through its progeny.~~Dee

    Hi Dee, thanks for joining in the fun. Gail is so helpful, in so many ways!

  9. Barbara H. says:

    One look at the pods would have made it an easy decision for me. Too many mimosa guests springing up in the woods around here to let anyone with pods like that stay. I think you made a good decision.

    Thanks Barbara, for that vote of support. It was pretty, but definitely too big for the space. After reading about its weedy tendencies, the decision was easy.

  10. It is rather gawky looking, though I suppose with time it would have filled out?

    The foliage was nice, but it was too tall for where it decided to be born.

  11. Diane says:

    Dear Frances,
    I just love you and your blog for so many reasons. You have an amazing sense of humour, use the language so well, and so knowledgeable about the plants. You can be serious but with the right amount of magic. How fortunate was the day when I discovered your fabulous contribution to all things plants and wonderful. We will probably never meet but I am so grateful that you are out there bringing all your work and love of the garden to all of us. Diane. (B.C. Canada)

    Dear Diane, your kind words have made my day, thank you so much! I do appreciate you and all my readers. Putting the blog posts together, taking the photos, writing the narrative are fun for me, I enjoy the process of sharing my garden. Hearing from others, that they get my jokes, means a lot. Thank you again.

  12. I like how you ID the plant and figure out its characteristics before weeding it or keeping it. That one looks like it could overwhelm a garden.

    Thanks Sarah. It seems like the right way to tell if a new plant is good, bad or indifferent. This one is too big, so it had to go.

  13. I call them wait-and-see plants. Sometimes in the past I have missed my chance to yank before seeds are dispersed, and have lived to regret it. My best wait-and-sees were after we first moved into our first house, where seeds from plants the former owner had grown sprouted when I weeded the beds.

    That is a good name for it, Kathy, wait and see. I have waited too long in the past, too, like when I thought the henbit was salvia of some sort. Big mistake!

  14. Sharon says:

    I might have had these…what gorgeous flowers…interesting post…

    Thanks Sharon. The flowers are quite nice, and the foliage is pretty, even the seedpods are interesting, but it was too big and the references seemed to think it was a bad weed, so out it went.

  15. patientgardener says:

    I do find unexpected guests interesting. I like the look of yours, pity it went

    Hi Helen, it was pretty, just too large. I believe it will be back. It has shown up several years now, this is the first time I let it bloom.

  16. I was ‘rooting’ for it – tall, graceful, orange and yellow pea-like flowers – but like any good horror movie, we all know what happens when we don’t get rid of the scary visitor right out of the gate. Wonder what it would do in our climate?
    (still can’t post with my blogger a/c – hence Facebook….)

    Hi Barbara, thanks for your support. It is pretty, the foliage is nice, the flowers are sweet, and in the right place, it could be allowed to stay. Sorry about the sign in, I have zero control over WordPress, however. I appreciate you making the effort anyway.

  17. My latest wait and see is a maximillion sunflower. Started out small but kept growing with a very unusual pre-bloom bud.

    Hi Greg, thanks for adding in to the conversation here. Max was here for a time, he had to go due to his gigantic size and floppy habit. Lemon Queen was his replacement. She gets a chop down in May to delay the bloom a bit and keep her shorter. It is working so far.

  18. Cyndi says:

    I Would have left it with the beautiful yellow and orange colors, maybe move it if not in desired place, but native plants are a lot of what I do and just living here a year now, I am still find unexpected plants growing and trying to learn about them! Thanks for sharing your photos! Smiles, Cyndi

    Hi Cyndi, smiles back to you! If this plant had come up elsewhere, like the yellow/white garden where there are many tall plants, it might have been left to grow. The research scared me about the self sowing. We do grow many, many natives here, including ones that just show up. I do love free plants!

  19. Carol says:

    Yep, some plants just have to go… and some of them are the prettiest.

    It was pretty, Carol, but too large and a little scary to stay.

  20. Rose says:

    Bye, bye, Sesbania. It does look very similar to partridge pea which I just learned about recently and think is a pretty little wildflower; too bad this wasn’t it. I also belong to the school of “wait and see” when it comes to unknown volunteers. I’ve been waiting for several weeks for a volunteer to bloom here so I can identify it. I’m still not sure exactly what it is, but I’m pretty sure it’s a weed, so it will be making a quick departure soon as well.

    Yes, too bad this did not turn out to be partridgepea, Rose. Weeds can turn out to be good plants, I have many of those growing here. It is good to be sure what it is before making a decision.

  21. charles porter says:

    I laughed when I saw the picture,,,,I had one come up in one of the two big pots at the corners of our parking pad. I had planted sweetpeas ,,,dark purple and portulaca,,,pink and white,,,and some wondering dew in the pots and out of the blue poped that (weed) as my Mom put it,,,,I said dont pull it let it grow and see what it does,,well it was tall and not much folage as you know,,,but when it first came out it was quite pretty shaped and odd which I like so after it got about 5ft tall it started blooming ,,,the blooms sort of like sweet pea blooms,,,,so what I did was keep the seed pods nipped off and that way I didnt have to worry about it going wild and causing problems,,,Its getting chilly here at night so it had to go,,,lol,,,,I am allways looking for little bird or wind gifts,,,when you purchase a plant and plant it ,,,if it fails its dissapointing,,,,but if it was a pop up freebie,,,,its all good,,,

    Hi Charles, thanks for adding in here. That is a good way to keep it under control, cutting of the seedpods. Perhaps if this had come up in a spot where taller and wilder plants grow here it would have been allowed to stay. Where it chose to grow, nope. Freebies are good!

  22. sharon says:

    i can believe your hummers .i went out to take a picture across the yard I opened the door and he flew away..i dont know why they are so timid here…Yes I love the pink and I cant find one..I tried seeds but no luck

    If I get close at all with the camera, they fly away. I was a good distance away with the zoom this time. If I am weeding on hands and knees, or even sitting in the chair without the camera, the hummers will come right up to my face and hover in front of me. Sort of scary! Sorry about your muhly experience. Maybe someday…

  23. Oh, man! I thought it was a cool looking plant! It reminds me of wild senna, too.

    Hi Sue, thanks for visiting. It was cool and would have been okay in some other garden bed that had much taller plantings. I keep this area low to be able to see the azaleas from the seating area under the deck. If it comes back, I might move it while it is still small next year.

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