Monographs Details: Chamaecrista swartzii (Wikstr.) Britton
Authority: Britton, Nathaniel L. Flora Borinqueña.
Description:Species Description - Olaf Swartz was a Swedish explorer and botanist who visited the West Indies from 1784 to 1786 and made a large and extremely important collection of plants which was contributed to the herbarium of the Botanical Garden at Stockholm, and is preserved there as one of the most scientifically valuable of any in existence, containing the type specimens (those from which the first descriptions were written) of very many species of Jamaica, Cuba and Haiti. Many of these descriptions were first published by Swartz himself, in works printed from 1788 to 1811. The shrub here illustrated was found first on the island St. Bartholomew, in the northern Lesser Antilles, and supposed to be the same as a related one from Jamaica, which Linnaeus had described in 1753 as Cassia glandulosa; subsequent studies by other botanists proved, however, that it differs specifically,and its botanical name Swartzii was given it in 1826, in honor of the explorer. The Spanish name Tamarindillo refers to the similarity of its leaves to those of the Tamarind Tree. It ranges from Santo Domingo eastward to the Virgin Islands and south through the Lesser Antilles to Grenada. It is frequent in Porto Rico, on banks and hillsides, at lower and middle elevations, mostly in moist districts.
The genus Chamaecrista (Greek, a low crest) was established by Moench in 1794, to include some plants referred by his predecessors to the genus Cassia; many more recent botanists have still retained them in Cassia, but the separation is justified, these being trees, with long woody pods which do not split open to release the seeds, while the Chamaecristas are herbs or shrubs with small pods which split open elastically, and there are other features of difference; over 150 species are known, inhabiting tropical and temperate regions; their leaves are various, their yellow flowers solitary, or few together, with 5 sepals, and the 5 petals are variously unequal; those of some species have 10 stamens, others 5.
Chamaecrista Swartzii is a slender, somewhat hairy shrub, sometimes about 1.5 meters high, but usually lower, and conspicuous when in bloom. Its leaves are short-stalked and have from 15 to 25 pairs of thin, oblong leaflets from 6 to 15 millimeters long; the leaf-stalk bears a small gland, or sometimes 2 glands. The flowers are 2 or 3 centimeters broad, with very narrow, pointed sepals; one of the petals is very broad, the other 4 smaller, unequal in pairs; the 5 stamens are quite short.The narrow pod is about 3 centimeters long and 3 or 4 millimeters wide.
Our illustration was first published in "Addisonia", plate 444, December, 1928.
Cassia Swartzii Wickstrom, Svenska Vetanskaps Akademiens Handlingar 1825: 30. 1826.
Chamaecrista Swartzii Britton, Bulletin of the Torrey Botanical Club 44; 9. 1917.