Carnegiea gigantea, Giant Saguaro

Southwest Desert Flora

Home to the plants of the Sonoran, Chihuahuan and Mojave Deserts

Cirsium ochrocentrum, Yellowspine Thistle

Senna covesii, Coves' Cassia

Coves' Cassia has yellow flowers that are quite showy, note in the photograph the veins in the flowers are quite prominent. Senna covesii Coves' Cassia is a perennial plants that blooms from April to October and from March to April in California. Senna covesii Coves' Cassia has green or gray-green paired leaves often pointed at the tips; below the leaves are bristle-like appendages (stipules) as shown in the photograph. Senna covesii The fruit from Coves' Cassia is a dry pod as shown here; a round cylinder that splits open when mature to release seeds. Senna covesii Coves' Cassia, also called Coues’ Cassia, prefers dry rocky slopes, sandy desert washes and mesas. This species is found between 1,000 to 3,000 feet (304 - 914 m) elevation or so. Senna covesii

Scientific Name: Senna covesii
Common Name: Coves' Cassia

Also Called: Coues' Cassia, Coues' Senna, Coves' Cassia, Cove Senna, Dais, Desert Senna, Rattlebox, Rattlebox Senna, Rattleweed (Spanish: Ejotillo, Hojasèn, Daisillo, Ojosón, Oyasón, Rosamaría).

Family: Fabaceae or Leguminosae Family

Synonyms: (Cassia covesii)

Status: Native

Duration: Perennial

Size: Up to 20 inches (50 cm) or more.

Growth Form: Coves' Cassia is a subshrub covered with grayish hairs (pubescence).

Leaves: Coves' Cassia has green or gray-green paired leaves, rounded around the edges and often pointed at the tips (see photo above); below the leaves are bristle-like appendages (stipules); compound with leaflets in 2 or 3 pairs on short stalk as shown above.

Flower Color: Coves' Cassia has yellow flowers that are quite showy, note the veins in the flowers are quite prominent; the fruit is a dry pod, a round cylinder that splits open when mature to release seeds.

Flowering Season: April to October; March to April in California.

Elevation: 1,000 to 3,000 feet (304 - 914 m) or so.

Habitat Preferences: Dry rocky slopes, sandy desert washes and mesas.

Recorded Range: In the United States Senna covesii is a Mojave and Sonoran desert species found in AZ, CA and NM. In Arizona it is found almost state-wide with few or no records in the northeast part of the state; in California it occurs in the southeast part of the state and in New Mexico in the southwest corner of the state (Clark County). It is also native to Baja California.

North America & US County Distribution Map for Senna covesii.

North America species range map for Coves' Cassia, Senna covesii:

North America species range map for Coves' Cassia, Senna covesii:
Click image for full size map.

U.S. Weed Information: Unknown
Invasive/Noxious Weed Information: Unknown
Wetland Indicator: Unknown

Threatened/Endangered Information: California Native Plant Society has identified Coves' Cassia Senna covesii as “Rare or Endangered” in California; (2B2 status); species is Threatened in the wild by vehicles and road maintenance.

Genus Information: In North America, USDA Plants Database lists 27 native species and 14 introduced species for Senna. Worldwide, World Flora Online includes 362 accepted species names for the genus. The Plant List lists 351 species for Senna.

The genus Senna was published in 1754 by Philip Miller (1691-1771).

In the Southwestern United States: Arizona has 14 species of genus, California and New Mexico each have 11 species, Nevada has 3 species, Texas has has 23 species and Utah has 0 species. Data approximate, subject to revision.

Several members of the genus Senna have been re-classified from Cassia.

Comments: Coves' Cassia is generally found in the same habitat types as Twinleaf Senna except that Coves' Cassia is much more common at lower elevations. Twinleaf Senna also will be observed blooming much later in the year, especially following a heavy monsoon.

Coves' Cassia is often used by transportation departments as a roadside wildflower species and by homeowners as a landscape species.

Also see in Southwest Desert Flora; Twinleaf Senna, Senna bauhinioides, Woolly Senna, Senna hirsuta v glaberrima and Baja California Senna, Senna purpusii.

Importance to Wildlife, Birds and Livestock
Coves' Cassia, Senna covesii has attractive flowers, the flowers and their seeds may be visited by hummingbirds and/or small mammals including rodents and granivorous birds in search of nectar or food.

Beneficial Value to Butterflies, Honey Bees and Insects
Coves' Cassia, Senna covesii has attractive flowers which is known to attract butterflies and may attract moths, flies, honeybees, native Bees and other insects in search of food and nectar.

Cassia (=Senna) species are known to attract the following butterflies and/or their caterpillars;
  • Tailed Orange, Pyrisitia proterpia
  • Orange-barred Sulphur, Phoebis philea
  • Mercurial Skipper, Proteides mercurius
  • Cloudless Sulphur, Phoebis sennae
  • Sleepy Sulfur, Eurema nicippe

  • Find out more here from Butterflies and Moths of North America. (BAMONA)

    In addition, according to the Arizona Sonora Desert Museum, "Plant Care Information" notice, Sulphur, Hairstreak and Blue butterflies are attracted to all of the Sennas.

    The genus “Senna” (Sen'na:) is derived from the Arabic name Sana.

    The genus Senna was published in 1754 by Philip Miller (1691-1771).

    The species epithet covesii (coves'ii:) is named in honor of Elliot Ladd Coues, (1842-1899). Elliot Ladd Coues was a naturalist and ornithologist. As an ornithologist he published Birds of the Northwest (1874) and Birds of the Colorado Valley (1878). The Coues White-tailed Deer was also named in his honor.

    Note: According to Michael A. Charters, the discrepancy between the names Coves and Coues results from the fact that the Romans did not distinguish between 'u' and 'v,' thereby permitting authors when choosing Latin names to use either interchangeably.

    Ethnobotany - Native American Ethnobotany; University of Michigan - Dearborn

    Date Profile Completed: 09/08/2015, updated, 01/06/2022
    Arizona Flora, Kearney, Thomas H., Peebles, Robert H., 1960, University of California Press, Berkley and Los Angeles, California, as Cassia covesii.
    U.S. Dept. of Agriculture, Natural Resources Conservation Service on-line database and USGS ITIS search; accessed 12/31/2021.
    World Flora Online; A Project of the World Flora Online Consortium; An Online Flora of All Known Plants - (accessed 12/31/2021)
    Martin F. Wojciechowski & Elizabeth McClintock 2012, Senna covesii, in Jepson Flora Project (eds.) Jepson eFlora,, accessed on January 05, 2022.
    Native Plant Information Network, NPIN. Published on the Internet; accessed 01/05/2022. Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center at The University of Texas, Austin, TX.
    Michael J. Plagens; Arizonensis; Field Guide; Sonoran Desert Flora; Fabaceae-Caesalpiniodeae, Senna covesii, Desert Senna, Senna covesii; accessed 01/05/2022.
    California Native Plant Society, Rare Plant Program. 2022. Inventory of Rare and Endangered Plants of California (online edition, v9-01 1.0). Website [accessed 6 January 2022].
    "Senna covesii." Native Plant Database, . 27 Aug 2010, 18:41 UTC. 9 Jan 2022, 18:40
    Seiler, John, Peterson, John, North American species range map courtesy of Virginia Tech, Dept. of Forest Resources & Environmental Conservation
    ARIZONA-SONORA DESERT MUSEUM PLANT CARE INFORMATION Baja California Senna, Senna purpusii; accessed online 01/09/2021.
    SEINet synonyms, scientific names, geographic locations, general information.
    Etymology:Michael L. Charters California Plant Names: Latin and Greek Meanings and Derivations; A Dictionary of Botanical and Biographical Etymology - (accessed 01/05/2022)
    IPNI (2020). International Plant Names Index. Published on the Internet, The Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, Harvard University Herbaria & Libraries and Australian National Botanic Gardens. [Retrieved 05 January 2022].