Plant identification in DRC

From a partner in Sankuru, Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). Locals make an artisanal malaria aid from it. Local name is Esangamonja which has the meaning of “miss the crossroads.” I know this is all over Africa and have seen it many times; have just never tried to figure out what it was. Partner is wondering if there are any potential uses (aside from medicinal) for it.

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Hi Aaron!

Some of ECHO’s former staff IDed it as Cassia/Senna occidentalis.

I am also interested in its potential uses. Here’s what I found:

  • Researchers in Nigeria (Ekpendu et al., 2014) listed it as a local fish poison.
  • I could not find it listed on Feedipedia or Tropical Forages as being used as a forage option
  • Ecocrop does have it! The listing says:

It is said to be mildly toxic to various stock animals. Undried deeds are poisonous. Can be a troublesome weed in sugar plantations, and in cultivated fields, grasslands and pastures. Increases soil fertility, especially in exhausted peanut fields.

Ecocrop GAEZ v4 Data Portal. Accessed December, 2022. Search term: Cassia occidentalis. ECOCROP - Find Plant

Ekpendu, E. A.; Saliu, J. K.; Otitoloju, A. A., 2014. A checklist of botanical piscicides available in Nigeria. Open J. Ecol., 4: 346-35.

Does anyone else know of other uses for this plant? Maybe for fiber?

The Ecocrop entry says it’s good for the soil, I wonder if there is anyone who has tried to measure the Nitrogen accumulation of the crop?

It’s various uses are listed here as well:

That looks a lot like Senna occidentalis, though a friend pointed out to me that there are a group of related plants which can be difficult to distinguish. In Niger Senna occidentalis is also used to treat malaria and is often cultivated in courtyards for that purpose, especially in more arid regions where it doesn’t commonly grow naturally. In less arid regions it is common near towns because livestock don’t eat it. It stays partly green for some or all of the dry season. This may contribute to improving poor soil if it helps to protect the soil when other plants have died off. This subfamily legumes (the Caesalpinioideae) typically doesn’t fix atmospheric nitrogen, though there are some exceptions. People in Niger say it is edible after significant amount of washing and boiling. I’ve never heard of anyone actually eating it though. The related Senna obtusifolia is, however, a very popular green in Western Niger.

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If it is Cassia/Senna occidentalis (coffee senna) then:

The seeds are roasted and used for coffee. (They contain no caffeine).
Caution: The seeds are poisonous unless roasted.
Young leaves and young seeds are eaten, cooked. The leaves are added to soups.
The unripe pods are cooked and eaten with rice.
The ashes of the pods are used as food salt.

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