Fabaceae Lindl.

Chamaecrista Moench

This genus is accepted, and its native range is Tropics & Subtropics.


M. Thulin et al. Flora of Somalia, Vol. 1-4 [updated 2008]

Morphology General Habit
Herbs to unarmed shrubs or trees
Morphology Leaves
Leaves paripinnate, often with ± cup-shaped, sessile or stalked glands on petiole and/or rhachis
Morphology Reproductive morphology Inflorescences
Flowers in 1–many-flowered racemes; pedicels with 2 bracteoles near or above middle
Morphology Reproductive morphology Flowers Calyx
Sepals 5, imbricate
Morphology Reproductive morphology Flowers Corolla
Petals 5, yellow, often unequal
Morphology Reproductive morphology Flowers Androecium Stamens
Stamens usually 10, rarely only 4–5; anthers basifixed, longer than their short filaments, ciliolate along lateral sutures, dehiscent by apical pores or short slits
Morphology Reproductive morphology Fruits
Pods compressed, elastically dehiscent with twisting valves
Morphology Reproductive morphology Seeds
Seeds smooth or pitted, without areole.
About 350 species, pantropical, most numerous in the New World, some extending into temperate regions.


Legumes of the World. Edited by G. Lewis, B. Schrire, B. MacKinder & M. Lock. Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew. (2005)

Herbs (perennial or monocarpic), shrubs or (occasionally) trees: many are weeds of open sites and colonisers of disturbed areas, roadsides, river margins, cultivated areas and grassland
Many on sand, (including coastal dunes), some in semi-arid areas, some in seasonally waterlogged areas, in S America common in wooded grassland (cerrado, savanna) and on stony or sandy grassland (campo), very few in true rain forest
a secondary centre in Africa with 36 spp. (mainly widespread in Zambezian, Sudanian, Somalia-Masai, Afromontane and Zanzibar-Inhambane regions), 3-4 extending to Madagascar; 6 spp. endemic in Madagascar and 1 in Aldabra; 12 native in Australia, 5 spp. endemic in India, 3 (-4) spp. in continental SE Asia, Java and New Guinea, 1 sp. endemic in the Philippines, the genus extending into Korea and Japan; several spp. widely introduced as pasture herbs, or inadvertently as weeds
One of three genera in subtribe Cassiinae; divided into 6 sections in the New World (Irwin & Barneby, 1981; 1982); see under Cassia for comments on phylogenetic placement; Corby (1974) and Sprent (2001) noted that while species of Cassia and Senna do not nodulate, those of Chamaecrista do; 24 spp. described as new to the Neotropics since 1982

Tribe Cercideae is basally branching in the Leguminosae (Bruneau et al., 2001; Herendeen et al., 2003a), as predicted by Wunderlin et al. (1981), and Cercis is the most basally branching genus in the tribe. While much taxonomic work has been carried out on the tribe in the past thirty years (e.g., Larsen et al., 1980, 1984; Wunderlin, 1976, 1979; Wunderlin et al., 1981, 1987; Zhang, 1995; Vaz, 2003; Vaz & Tozzi, 2003), few species have been included in phylogenetic analyses and inter- and intra-generic relationships are still largely unresolved with the exception of Cercis (Hao et al., 2001; Davis et al., 2002b).

Wunderlin (1979) and Wunderlin et al. (1981) divided the tribe into two subtribes, Cercidinae and Bauhiniinae, based on seed, floral and fruit characters. Walpers (1842) had already down-ranked Bauhinieae Benth. (1840) to subtribal status, thus the combination Bauhiniinae (Benth.) Wunderlin (1979) is superfluous. Polhill (1994) kept the Cercideae unchanged with two subtribes and five genera. While the Cercidinae contains three small distinct genera, Cercis, Griffonia and Adenolobus, the Bauhiniinae houses the monospecific Madagascan genus Brenierea and the large, diverse pantropical genus Bauhinia sens. lat. which has been segregated into as many as twenty-six genera by various authors (Wunderlin, 1976).

While many of the Bauhinia segregates are based on minor morphological differences, others are distinguished morphologically by a suite of characters. Britton and Rose (1930), in their account of the Caesalpiniaceae for the North American Flora, divided Bauhinia into several segregate genera, including Schnella Raddi which here is treated as a synonym of Phanera, but might prove to be distinct as indicated in recent molecular analyses by Forest (unpublished data). Britton and Killip (1936) recognised Schnella as distinct from Bauhinia in Colombia. De Wit (1956), treating ‘Malaysian Bauhinieae’, recognised Bracteolanthus, Lysiphyllum, Gigasiphon, Piliostigma, Lasiobema and Phanera as separate genera and this was largely followed by subsequent flora writers in Africa and New Guinea (e.g., Brenan, 1967; Coetzer & Ross in Ross, 1977; Verdcourt, 1979). Others have retained a more inclusive Bauhinia proposed by Wunderlin et al. (1981, 1987), e.g., Macbride (1943: 207–220) for Peru; Larsen et al. (1980) for the Flora of Cambodia, Laos and Vietnam; Larsen et al. (1984) for the Flora of Thailand; Chen (1988) for China, and Larsen & Larsen in Hou et al. (1996) in Flora Malesiana. Zhang (1995) published a morphological cladistic analysis of the series of Bauhinia sens. lat., but few species of Bauhinia have been included in molecular studies. It remains equivocal as to whether Bauhinia sens. lat. is monophyletic, but preliminary molecular results indicate that some elements should be reinstated as distinct genera (Bruneau et al., in prep.; Forest, unpubl.). This runs contrary to the findings of Larsen & Larsen in Hou et al. (1996) who concluded “that Bauhinia in the sense of Linnaeus, Bentham, De Candolle, Taubert and Hutchinson is an evolutionary unit and a very natural genus”. Larsen and Larsen also noted that Bauhinia sens. lat. presents a reticulate pattern of variation across its pantropical range (this apparently conflicting somewhat with its status as a “natural genus”). While this is undoubtedly true if the genus is considered as all-inclusive, recent studies of legume distributions in general (Schrire et al., this volume and 2005) have revealed repeated patterns of generic distribution which appear to be duplicated by at least some of the segregates of Bauhinia. If these segregates are recognised as distinct genera (as several are in this treatment) then the reticulate pattern of variation of Bauhinia is far less pronounced. More sampling at the species level in molecular analyses and more morphological studies are needed across the full pantropical range of Bauhinia sens. lat. before inter- and intra-generic relationships are clearly resolved. In the current account genera that have been recognised as distinct from Bauhinia in at least one flora treatment that post-dates De Wit (1956) have been treated as separate genera, especially where these are supported by the preliminary results from a chloroplast trnL (intron and spacer) sequence analysis (Forest, unpubl.). The reader’s attention is also alerted to the detailed infra-generic division of Bauhinia by Wunderlin et al. (1987) in their reorganisation of the Cercideae which also forms a sound basis for sampling in future studies.

Palynological studies of Bauhinia (Larsen, 1975; Schmitz, 1977; Ferguson & Pearce, 1986) have all stressed the considerable variation in pollen morphology within the genus sens. lat. and there are clear correlations between pollen exine ornamentation, floral morphology and pollination. It remains to be seen just how closely these correspond to evolutionary relationships of species. Nevertheless, Schmitz (1977) made several new combinations in segregate genera of Bauhinia based on palynological type. These included new names in Lasiobema, Lysiphyllum, Pauletia, Perlebia and Phanera (Pauletia and Perlebia here considered as synonyms of Bauhinia). Zhang (1995), who analysed morphologically the series of Bauhinia proposed by Wunderlin et al. (1987), concluded that while some supraspecific segregates of the genus were supported, none of the subgenera appeared to be monophyletic. Several realignments were proposed.

The Cercideae as presented here includes 12 genera and (322)–335–(348) species. This treatment differs from Wunderlin et al. (1981, 1987) and Polhill (1994) in that Barklya, Gigasiphon, Lasiobema, Lysiphyllum, Phanera, Piliostigma and Tylosema are considered distinct from Bauhinia. While some of these may well be reincluded in Bauhinia after further study, yet other genera may be reinstated from within Bauhinia. Bracteolanthus, treated as distinct by De Wit (1956), is here included in Lysiphyllum following Wunderlin et al. (1987), while Barklya, considered congeneric with Bauhinia by Wunderlin (1979) and Wunderlin et al. (1981, 1987) is considered distinct following George (1998b) and Forest (unpublished data). The reinstatement of Lasiobema appears least well supported (Forest, unpubl.).


Leguminosae, R.K. Brummitt, A.C. Chikuni, J.M. Lock & R.M. Polhill. Flora Zambesiaca 3:2. 2007

Morphology General Habit
Annual or perennial herbs, sometimes woody at the base.
Morphology Stem
Stems usually hairy with short curved (crisped) hairs and/or straight spreading hairs.
Morphology Leaves
Leaves paripinnate, usually with numerous leaflets; stipules narrowly triangular, appressed, persistent; petiole usually with a gland towards the top; rachis channelled above, the margins of the channel sometimes fused to form a ridge or crest; leaflets usually oblong, asymmetric.
Morphology Reproductive morphology Inflorescences
Inflorescences axillary or supra-axillary, few-flowered; pedicels slender, often elongating after flowering, bracteate near the apex.
Morphology Reproductive morphology Flowers Calyx
Calyx lobes subequal, narrowly ovate, acuminate.
Morphology Reproductive morphology Flowers Corolla
Petals yellow, delicate, obovate to oblong.
Morphology Reproductive morphology Flowers Androecium Stamens
Stamens 5–10, subequal, dehiscing by slits.
Morphology Reproductive morphology Flowers Gynoecium Ovary
Ovary oblong, hairy, with many ovules.
Morphology Reproductive morphology Fruits
Pods linear, elastically dehiscent.
Morphology Reproductive morphology Seeds
Seeds brown, shiny, rhomboid, flattened, usually with lines of small pits on the testa.

Some species widely used as traditional medicines in Africa, especially as purgatives and for treating wounds and sores; in Senegal a paste of Ch. absus (L.) Irwin & Barneby, mixed with butter, is used as a suppository for piles, also used for syphilis; the seeds contain a toxalbumin, absin, similar to abrin from Abrus precatorius L. (tribe Abreae) and this is thought to be the active substance used for eye conditions such as cataract; Ch. mimosoides (L.) Greene is used as a tea substitute in China and Japan, and is used against snake bite and scorpion sting in Tanzania

Native to:

Alabama, Aldabra, Angola, Argentina Northeast, Argentina Northwest, Arizona, Aruba, Assam, Bahamas, Bangladesh, Belize, Benin, Bolivia, Botswana, Brazil North, Brazil Northeast, Brazil South, Brazil Southeast, Brazil West-Central, Burkina, Burundi, Cambodia, Cameroon, Cape Provinces, Cape Verde, Caprivi Strip, Cayman Is., Central African Repu, Chad, China North-Central, China South-Central, China Southeast, Colombia, Comoros, Congo, Costa Rica, Cuba, Dominican Republic, East Himalaya, Ecuador, El Salvador, Equatorial Guinea, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Florida, Free State, French Guiana, Gabon, Gambia, Georgia, Ghana, Guatemala, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Gulf of Guinea Is., Guyana, Hainan, Haiti, Honduras, Illinois, India, Iran, Ivory Coast, Jamaica, Japan, Jawa, Kansas, Kentucky, Kenya, Korea, KwaZulu-Natal, Laos, Leeward Is., Lesser Sunda Is., Liberia, Madagascar, Malawi, Malaya, Mali, Maluku, Manchuria, Massachusetts, Mauritania, Mexico Central, Mexico Gulf, Mexico Northeast, Mexico Northwest, Mexico Southeast, Mexico Southwest, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, Mozambique, Myanmar, Namibia, Nansei-shoto, Nepal, Netherlands Antilles, New Guinea, New Mexico, New South Wales, New York, Nicaragua, Nicobar Is., Niger, Nigeria, Northern Provinces, Northern Territory, Oklahoma, Pakistan, Panamá, Paraguay, Pennsylvania, Peru, Philippines, Puerto Rico, Queensland, Rhode I., Rwanda, Saudi Arabia, Senegal, Sierra Leone, Socotra, Somalia, South Carolina, South China Sea, South Dakota, Southwest Caribbean, Sri Lanka, Sudan, Sulawesi, Sumatera, Suriname, Swaziland, Taiwan, Tanzania, Tennessee, Texas, Thailand, Togo, Trinidad-Tobago, Turks-Caicos Is., Uganda, Uruguay, Venezuela, Venezuelan Antilles, Vermont, Vietnam, Virginia, West Himalaya, West Virginia, Western Australia, Windward Is., Wisconsin, Yemen, Zambia, Zaïre, Zimbabwe

Introduced into:

Andaman Is., Bismarck Archipelago, Canary Is., Caroline Is., Fiji, Hawaii, Kazan-retto, Laccadive Is., Maine, Maldives, Marianas, Mauritius, New Caledonia, New Hampshire, Niue, Norfolk Is., Ogasawara-shoto, Primorye, Réunion, Samoa, Seychelles, Solomon Is., Tonga, Transcaucasus, Wallis-Futuna Is.

Chamaecrista Moench appears in other Kew resources:

Date Reference Identified As Barcode Type Status Has image?
Apr 10, 2003 Pennington, R.T. [219], Brazil K000206302 Yes
Apr 1, 2003 Giulietti, A.M. [2198], Bahia K000840039 Yes
May 1, 2001 Salas M., S.H. [3335], Mexico K000680425 No
Jan 1, 1995 Silva, G.P. de [1393], Bahia K000839981 Yes
Jan 1, 1995 Silva, G.P. de [1324], Goiás K000839980 Yes
Jan 1, 1993 Balam, F. [490], Mexico K000680429 No
Dec 1, 1992 Sandoval, E. [861], El Salvador K000680426 No
Nov 18, 1991 Alves, R.J.V. [1627], Minas Gerais K000839976 Yes
Brooks, R.R. [499], Goiás K000840016 Yes
Ribas, O.S. [7797], Minas Gerais K000840024 Yes
Hoehne, W. [s.n.], São Paulo K000840073 Yes
Barbosa, E. [2038], Mato Grosso do Sul K000840033 Yes
Silva, J.M. [5900], Minas Gerais K000840035 Yes
Teixeira, I.M. [10], Brazil K000840045 Yes
Pott, A. [12508], Mato Grosso do Sul K000840038 Yes
Brenan, J.P.M. [14446], Mexico K000680431 No
Gomide, C.C.C. [5], Brazil K000840046 Yes
Silva, G.P. [2515], Bahia K000840060 Yes
Fonseca, M.L. [1825], Goiás K000840067 Yes
Saint Pierre, M. [1065], Mexico K000680423 No
Cordeiro, J. [2811], Tocantins K000840032 Yes
Laurênio, A. [13], Pernambuco K000839999 Yes
Arbo, M.M. [7439], Bahia K000839991 Yes
Raynal, A. [15926], Guadeloupe K000680427 No
Lima, H.C. [2979], Espírito Santo K000839982 Yes
Cavalcanti, T.B. [1478], Goiás K000840071 Yes
Giulietti, A.M. [13599], Minas Gerais K000840012 Yes
Ribas, O.S. [7802], Minas Gerais K000840025 Yes
Silva, A.S.L. [1818], Brazil K000840065 Yes
Gibbs, P. [2371], Minas Gerais K000839983 Yes
Lima, V.L.G.F. [39], Brazil K000840004 Yes
s.coll. [s.n.], Brazil K000839989 Yes
Fonseca, M.L. [1792], Goiás K000840069 Yes
Ribas, O.S. [7631], Minas Gerais K000840021 Yes
Silva, J.M. [5688], Minas Gerais K000840023 Yes
Martinelli, G. [16127], Piauí K000839988 Yes
Souza, V.C. [5449], Bahia K000840007 Yes
Menandro, M.S. [100], Maranhão K000839998 Yes
Queiroz, L.P. [3841], Bahia K000840037 Yes
Thomas, W.W. [11265], Bahia K000839978 Yes
Souza, V.C. [5449], Bahia K000840009 Yes
Albuquerque, V.R. [20], Brazil K000839992 Yes
Forzza, R.C. [2856], Rio de Janeiro K000839979 Yes
Zappi, D.C. [11303], Minas Gerais K000840048 Yes
Gardner [3688], Brazil K000840074 Yes
Elorsa C., M. [3656], Mexico K000680424 No
Sandoval [19], El Salvador K000680567 No
Buzzi, M. [20], Brazil K000840044 Yes
Forzza, R.C. [4539], Goiás K000839990 Yes
Guedes, M.L. [3044], Bahia K000840063 Yes
Hughes, C.E. [1785], Mexico K000680428 No
Guedes, M.L. [3044], Bahia K000840062 Yes
Souza, V.C. [5449], Bahia K000840008 Yes
Peters, J.N. [2], Brazil K000839974 Yes
Hatschbach, G. [79439], Minas Gerais K000840022 Yes
Queiroz, L.P. [9189], Bahia K000840061 Yes
Woodgyer, E. [2505], Bahia K000840036 Yes
Chan, C. [3969], Mexico K000680430 No
Hatschbach, G. [80102], Minas Gerais K000840034 Yes
Brenan, J.P.M. [14481], Mexico K000680433 No

First published in Methodus: 272 (1794)

Accepted by

  • (2021). epublication.
  • Govaerts, R. (1999). World Checklist of Seed Plants 3(1, 2a & 2b): 1-1532. MIM, Deurne.


Flora Zambesiaca

  • Irwin & Barneby in Mem. New York Bot. Gard. 35: 636–895 (1982).
  • Meth. Pl. Hort. Bot. Marburg.: 272 (1794).

Flora of Somalia

  • Flora Somalia, Vol 1, (1993) Author: by M. Thulin [updated by M. Thulin 2008]

  • Flora Zambesiaca

    Flora Zambesiaca

  • Flora of Somalia

    Flora of Somalia

  • Herbarium Catalogue Specimens

    Digital Image © Board of Trustees, RBG Kew

  • Kew Backbone Distributions

    The International Plant Names Index and World Checklist of Selected Plant Families 2022. Published on the Internet at and
    © Copyright 2017 World Checklist of Selected Plant Families.

  • Kew Names and Taxonomic Backbone

    The International Plant Names Index and World Checklist of Selected Plant Families 2022. Published on the Internet at and
    © Copyright 2017 International Plant Names Index and World Checklist of Selected Plant Families.

  • Kew Science Photographs

    Copyright applied to individual images

  • Legumes of the World Online

  • Plants and People Africa

    Common Names from Plants and People Africa
    © Plants and People Africa