Vascular Plants of North Carolina
Account for Bigpod Sesbania - Sesbania herbacea  
Members of Fabaceae:
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Section 6 » Order Fabales » Family Fabaceae
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DistributionScattered across the lower third of the Coastal Plain, where Weakley (2018) considers the species as perhaps to probably native. Natural range inward to Martin, Duplin, and Robeson counties. Records from the Piedmont are certainly not native.

This is a Southern species, with the northern records of uncertain provenance. If native in our area, it ranges north to eastern NC, and south to southern FL and TX.
AbundanceFairly common in the southeastern counties, but mostly uncommon or infrequent near the coast to Dare County. Rare inward to Martin County and several counties north of Albemarle Sound.
HabitatThis is a species of open wet ground, most often found in disturbed places. It is usually seen in ditches or along canal banks, or in wet fields and damp thickets. It is not a species of undisturbed marshes.
PhenologyBlooms from July to September, and fruits from August to November.
IdentificationThis is a tall to very tall, and robust annual herb, growing normally to 6 feet tall and at times to about 8-10 feet high. It is generally not branched but has quite long leaves that can reach 8-10 inches long, and they are divided into 20-70 leaflets, each being oblong to linear and about 2/3-inch long but only about 1/5-inch wide. The plant is quite smooth overall. The flowers grow in few-flowered racemes in the leaf axils; they are rather large, bright golden-yellow with speckles of purple-brown, and about 1-1.5 inches across when spread open. The pods are completely different from those of the otherwise similar S. vesicaria. In S. herbacea, the pods are extremely slender and about 7 inches long but barely 1/8-inch wide. Those of S. vesicaria are much shorter and wider, as well as flattened (like a bean pod), only 1-2 inches long and about 3/4-inch wide. If you see one of these two tall and robust species, which collectively are quite conspicuous in their size and open wetland habitats, this species has more and narrower leaflets than S. vesicaria, flowers that are spotted with purple-brown (and not all yellow), and a much different pod shape.
Taxonomic CommentsThis species has gone by several other names in recent decades. RAB (1968) and other older references named it as S. exaltata, and some name it as S. macrocarpa.

Other Common Name(s)Sesban, Coffeeweed, Indigo-weed, Colorado River-hemp, Peatree
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