Colutea arborescens

Today’s entry was written by Katherine.

Thank you James Gaither (J.G. in S.F.@Flickr) for today’s photographs of Colutea arborescens (image 2).

Although the leguminous shrub Colutea arborescens is a native to Europe and North Africa, the species is now naturalized in some parts of the United States, Ontario (Canada), and China.

Colutea arborescens grows to be 1-2m in stem height, with bronze coloured bark and yellow flowers. The species blooms in the late spring and early summer, while the fruits develop in the summer. Fruits are brown or purplish, 2 to 3cm long, and dry into papery pods with 3 to 10 olive, brown or black seeds. According to Plants For A Future, the seeds are also poisonous, though the USDA lists the species as not toxic.

The genus name for Colutea arborescens comes from the Greek word kolutea which was used in antiquity for this group of plants, and the Latin word arboresco meaning “woody or tree-like” (literally to become a tree).

Colutea arborescens is commonly known as bladder senna, however they are not the real “senna” which refers to a genus in the same family; Fabaceae (Senna). Even bladder senna is used multiple times as a common name; native to Australia, the purple-flowered Swainsona colutoides, is also known by this moniker.

Colutea arborescens is used for ornamental purposes. The pods are used in dried arrangements, while the trees are cultivated for landscaping. Plants are also used for erosion control and as a revegetator in land reclamation, which is why in California, for instance, naturalized plants may be found in disturbed areas. Colutea arborescens has been known on occasion to become weedy in areas of cultivation.

Colutea arborescens
Colutea arborescens

3 responses to “Colutea arborescens”

  1. viriditas

    Daniel, We have a couple doing well growing as shrubs in the xeriscape here at the Summerland Ornamental Gardens- zone 5. Tough and pest free they also fix nitrogen I beleive. You may want to check it out next time you’re here…

  2. J. Civille

    Doesn’t this sound an awful lot like scotch broom? Cystysis scoparia shares many of these R selected traits: tough, pest-free, unpalatable seeds, fixes nitrogen, erosion control, revegetation, naturalized, weedy….. Yikes!

  3. Nan Gregory

    Hi Daniel,
    Hey! This is very like the tree I found in my back yard in Vancouver when I bought my house in 1986! It’s still going strong, though has taken a beating under the weight of wet snow we’ve had the last few winters. I dearly love it especially for the lantern glow the sun makes shining through the new green/rose pods. The pods don’t stay beautiful when picked, though, but turn stiff and opaque brown. Not at all ornamental. So maybe it’s not exactly the one pictured. Very like it, though.

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