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Senna alata - (L.) Roxb.

Common Name Ringworm Bush, Candle Bush, Empress Candle Plant
Family Fabaceae
USDA hardiness 10-12
Known Hazards The plant can become a weed in pastures; it is not eaten by livestock and is reported to be poisonous, especially for goats[299 ]. The bark is used as fish poison[299 ].(Parts of plant are poisonous if ingested All parts of plant are poisonous if ingested )
Habitats Found in many habitats, preferring disturbed, rather open vegetation such as roadsides, river banks, rain forest edges, lake shores, pond and ditch margins, open forest, orchards and around villages, at elevations up to 1,400 metres, occ 2,100 metre[299 ].
Range Northern S. America - northern Brazil, Colombia, Venezuela, the Guyanas.
Edibility Rating    (2 of 5)
Other Uses    (2 of 5)
Weed Potential Yes
Medicinal Rating    (4 of 5)
Care (info)
Tender Moist Soil Full sun
Senna alata Ringworm Bush, Candle Bush, Empress Candle Plant

Senna alata Ringworm Bush, Candle Bush, Empress Candle Plant


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Senna alata or most commonly known as Ringworm Bush is a native to Mexico that grows up to 4 m in height with horizontal branches. It is also known for various common names such as emperor?s candlesticks, candle bush, candelabra bush, Christmas candles, and empress candle plant. The large and oblong leaves tend to fold in the dark. The inflorescence are candle-like and yellow, occurring in spike-like clusters. The fruits are black, straight, winged pods and is up to 25 cm long. It is fast-growing but short-lived. It is used as medicinal plant as an ornamental. It is often used medicinally for its fungicidal properties, specifically as treatment against ringworm and other skin fungal infections. It also has laxative , antibacterial, anti-tumor, anti-inflammatory, and diuretic properties. Young leaves and young pods can be cooked and eaten as vegetables. The plant can easily be grown by seeds.

Physical Characteristics

 icon of manicon of shrub
Senna alata is a deciduous Shrub growing to 4 m (13ft) by 4 m (13ft) at a fast rate.
See above for USDA hardiness. It is hardy to UK zone 10 and is frost tender. The flowers are pollinated by Bees.
It can fix Nitrogen.
Suitable for: light (sandy), medium (loamy) and heavy (clay) soils and prefers well-drained soil. Suitable pH: mildly acid, neutral and basic (mildly alkaline) soils. It cannot grow in the shade. It prefers moist soil.

UK Hardiness Map US Hardiness Map


Cassia alata L. Cassia bracteata L.f. Cassia herpetica Jacq. Cassia rumphiana (DC.) Bojer Herpetica

Plant Habitats

Edible Uses

Edible Parts: Leaves  Seedpod
Edible Uses: Coffee

Young leaves - cooked[298 ]. Toasted leaves are sometimes used as a coffee substitute[299 ]. Young pods - cooked and eaten as a vegetable[299 ]. Only used in small amounts[299 ].

References   More on Edible Uses

Medicinal Uses

Plants For A Future can not take any responsibility for any adverse effects from the use of plants. Always seek advice from a professional before using a plant medicinally.
Abortifacient  Analgesic  Anthelmintic  Antibacterial  Antidiarrhoeal  Antifungal  Antiinflammatory  Antispasmodic  
Antitumor  Blood purifier  Diuretic  Eczema  Hypoglycaemic  Laxative  Parasiticide  
Poultice  Purgative  Skin  Vermifuge  Vulnerary

Ringworm bush is widely used as a traditional medicine, particularly valued for its laxative effect and its effective treatment of several skin conditions, including ringworm and scabies. Research has tended to confirm the validity of these traditional treatments. A number of anthraquinone derivatives have been isolated from the leaves, such as aloe-emodin, chrysophanol, isochrysophanol and rhein, as well as the alkaloid tyramine and the common steroid beta-sitosterol[299 ]. Crude leaf extracts have shown antibacterial activity against a range of bacteria (such as Dermatophilus congolensis, which causes a serious skin condition in cattle), antifungal properties (such as against Pityriasis versicolor in humans), and also antitumour activity[299 ]. The bark contains tannins[299 ]. The petals contain anthraquinones, glycosides, steroids, tannins and volatile oil[299 ]. Extracts of the petals have bactericidal activity against gram-positive bacteria but not against gram-negative bacteria[299 ]. The plant is laxative, antibacterial, antitumor, anti-inflammatory, diuretic, analgesic, vulnerary, weakly antifungal, hypoglycaemic, and antispasmodic[311 ]. The leaves are laxative[348 ]. They are taken internally as a remedy for constipation and to purify the blood[311 ]. The leaves are decocted, with or without Tripogandra serrulata and Persea americana, as a treatment for biliousness and hypertension. The leaves are widely used in treating skin diseases[298 ]. They can be applied as a tincture; as a poultice; powdered, then mixed with oil as an ointment; or the sap can be spread over the affected area - they form an effective treatment for skin blemishes, scabies, ringworm and other fungal skin infections[302 , 310 , 311 ]. The bark is used to treat skin diseases, diarrhoea, worms, parasitic skin diseases, scabies and eczema[311 ]. The root is laxative. An infusion is used in the treatment of diarrhoea, tympanites, uterus problems and filaria worm expulsion[348 ]. The root is applied externally to treat sores and skin fungi[348 ]. The flowers are used as a laxative and vermifuge[348 ]. An infusion is used for remedying spleen conditions[348 ]. A decoction combined with Zingiber officinale, is used as a treatment for grippe and as an abortifacient[348 ]. They are decocted with coconut milk for use as a laxative[348 ]. The leaves, flowers and fruit are mixed in an infusion to treat stomach problems[348 ]. The seed is laxative and anthelmintic. It is cooked and used as a remedy for intestinal worms[348 ]. The leaf contains the purgative anthraquinone, and also shows some antimicrobial activity[348 ]. The stem contains chrysophanol, emodin, rhein and aloe emodin[348 ]. The leaf and fruit contain purgative anthracene derivatives of aloe emodin and rhein[348 ].

References   More on Medicinal Uses

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Other Uses

Insecticide  Parasiticide  Tannin

The plant has insecticidal properties[311 ]. The bark is a source of tannins[299 ]. It is sometimes used as a colouring in tattooing[299 ].

Special Uses

References   More on Other Uses

Cultivation details

A plant of moister areas in the tropics, where it is usually found at lower elevations but occasionally as high as 2,100 metres. It is reported to tolerate a mean annual rainfall of 600 - 4,300mm and average yearly temperatures of 15 - 30°c. It is very susceptible to frost damage[299 ]. Prefers a moist but well-drained soil in a sunny position[302 ]. It grows well on both heavy and sandy, acid to slightly alkaline, well-drained soils[299 ]. This species occasionally escapes from cultivation to become naturalized, but it does not readily spread[302 ]. In many countries, including most countries of tropical Africa, it has become naturalized and is often considered a weed[299 ]. It is sometimes becoming a troublesome weed in pastures since the livestock will not eat it and a rapid spread can reduce the area available for grazing[451 ]. A fast-growing, but short-lived plant[299 ]. Plants can flower and produce fruit all year round[299 ]. Very tolerant of pruning, it can be cut back severely on a regular basis in order to maintain its shape[307 ]. Although many species within the family Fabaceae have a symbiotic relationship with soil bacteria, this species is said to be devoid of such a relationship and therefore does not fix atmospheric nitrogen[755 ]. Flowering Time: Early summer, Early fall, Late summer, Late fall, Mid summer, Mid fall(Mid Summer Late Summer/Early Fall Mid Fall)(early summer, mid summer, late summer, early fall, mid fall, late fall). Bloom Color: Yellow(Bright Yellow)(orange, yellow). Spacing: 6-8 ft. (1.8-2.4 m) 8-10 ft. (2.4-3 m) 10-12 ft. (3-3.6 m) 12-15 ft. (3.6-4.7 m).

References   Carbon Farming Information and Carbon Sequestration Information

Temperature Converter

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Plant Propagation

Seed - requires pre-treatment to soften the hard seedcoat and allow the ingress of water[299 ]. This can be done by soaking the seed in a small amount of nearly boiling water (which cools down quickly and does not cook the seed) and then soaking the seed for 12 - 24 hours in warm water. Alternatively, a small area of the seed coat can be abraded, being careful not to damage the embryo[K ]. Cuttings

Other Names

If available other names are mentioned here

Bhumiari, Bhupadma, Christmas candle, Chum het tet, Chum het yai, Cortalinde, Empress candle plant, Gelenggang, Hindi-sana, Katepeng badak, Ketepeng china, Ketepeng, Khirkak, La'au fai lafa, Ludanggan, Nat-ki-sana, Nela-tangedu, Nelavarike, Nila vaka, Nila virai, Sanna-makki, Shona-makhi, Sindjo-el, Son-pat, agbobladzoe, alata leaf, asenti, bainsa, bajagua, barajo, bayisa, blefo sinogbetso, bois dartre, buisson de la gale, café-beirão, candelabra bush, candle bush, candle bush, ringworm plant|eth thora/rata tora, candlebush, candlestick senna, casse ailée, cassia alata leaf, chi jia jue ming, christmas blossom, christmas candle, christmas-candle, craw-craw plant, crawcraw plant, dadmurdan, dartres, dartrier, dat-ka-pat, duawusio, duawusu, emperor's candlesticks, empress-candleplant, eyanuba, ezinliba, fedegoso-gigante, fedegoso-grande, filasco, fleur st christophe, folium cassiae alatae, gelenggang besar, gelinggang, guajava, impetigo bush, king of the forest, kislin, mangerioba-do-pará, mangerioba-grande, mata-pasto, mocoté, osempe, plante des cros-cros, qanabisi, quatre épingles, red head, ringworm bush, ringworm cassia, ringworm senna, ringworm shrub, ringwormbush, ringwormshrub, ringworrn shrub, se, serocontil, seven golden candlesticks, seven-golden-candlesticks, singobetso, sus saika, sus tara saik, sus waha tara, winged senna, yamnua.

SOUTHERN AMERICA: French Guiana, Guyana, Suriname, Venezuela, Brazil, Colombia

Weed Potential

Right plant wrong place. We are currently updating this section. Please note that a plant may be invasive in one area but may not in your area so it’s worth checking.

Conservation Status

IUCN Red List of Threatened Plants Status : This taxon has not yet been assessed

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Senna auriculataMatara Tea. Tanner's cassiaTree5.0 10-12 FLMHNDMWe232
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Senna siameaSiamese Senna, Kassod TreeTree12.0 9-12 FLMHSNM114
Senna singueanaWinter cassia, Sticky podTree5.0 10-12 FLMHNM233
Senna toraStinking Cassia, Sickle sennaAnnual1.0 0-0  LMHSNM131

Growth: S = slow M = medium F = fast. Soil: L = light (sandy) M = medium H = heavy (clay). pH: A = acid N = neutral B = basic (alkaline). Shade: F = full shade S = semi-shade N = no shade. Moisture: D = dry M = Moist We = wet Wa = water.


Expert comment


(L.) Roxb.

Botanical References

Links / References

For a list of references used on this page please go here
A special thanks to Ken Fern for some of the information used on this page.

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Subject : Senna alata  
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