Gardening with Gil: The Pink Cassia

Last week we looked at the Colvillea tree, but this week we have found a tree in the same genus of flowering plants in the legume family Fabaceae, with the same subfamily of Caesalpinioideae that is even more spectacular when in full flower. My mother the botanist, introduced me to the pink Cassia or Cassia Javanica 20 years ago and I planted one next to my patio. The pink Cassia is an absolutely spectacular deciduous tree which brings both butterflies and birds when in flower. The tree I planted grew quite quickly to about 6 metres in height and seemed to have more of a spreading canopy with a grey trunk. 

At the stage of planting that tree I did not realise there were hundreds of different varieties of cassia and some of them had very different flowers. My father had had a very common yellow flowering Cassia fistula in his garden and it had grown to a rather large tree. I had given one of what I thought was a pink cassia, to my daughter as a gift, and was very disappointed when I found the nursery had given me the wrong variety of cassia, and her tree flowered masses of small dark red and green flowers. The first year that my tree flowered it had only a few flowers coming from the stems spread throughout the tree. The contrast of the pink within the green foliage was exceptionally beautiful.

Cassia Javanica grows in full sun and blooms from mid spring to early summer. It grows well in well drained soil in a warmer climate and can reach a height of 35 to 45 feet. The tree is native to Southeast Asia and Indonesia and also grows in Florida, Hawaii and Southern Queensland. The leaves are alternately arranged and a row of leaflets forms on either side of an extension of the petiole. Each leaflet is oval-shaped, 4–5 inches long, and arranged in 5–12 pairs on a leaf. 

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The old leaves fall in Autumn and the flowers appear with the new leaves or before the new leaves. However the period without leaves is very short and therefore the tree is often considered a desirable shade tree. These flowers are pink, pink and white, or even white and are very pretty. After the flowering, pods up to 1 foot long appear on the plant and can be opened to expose the seeds. The tree needs regular water, especially in dry climates. This is not a strong tree when it comes to wind and it can be pruned back to help increase its storm tolerance. 

So if you have space in your garden try planting the Cassia Javanica. You will be very pleased with the display of flowers and it can become a showpiece as well as bringing the birds and butterflies.

What’s in your garden this winter? Share below.

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