Monographs Details: Herpetica alata (L.) Raf.
Authority: Britton, Nathaniel L. Flora Borinqueña.
Description:Species Description - The large, compound leaves, and large clusters of bright yellow flowers make this stout shrub conspicuous, and its long, narrow, 4-winged pods are characteristic. In Porto Rico it grows on hillsides and river-banks, and in waste grounds, at lower and middle elevations, and also on the islands Vieques and Culebra; its range extends nearly throughout the West Indies, except the Bahama Islands, and on the continent from Central Mexico to Paraguay. The genus Herpetica is monotypic, consisting of this species only; the derivation of the name is unexplained. The English name Carrion Crow is also used for it. The shrub has been introduced into tropical parts of the Old World.
Herpetica alata (winged) is a shrub from 1 to 4 meters high, with stout branches, the young foliage finely hairy. The once-compound leaves are from 0.3 to 1 meter long, with from 6 to 12 pairs of very short-stalked, blunt, rather thin leaflets from 5 to 17 centimeters long, somewhat inequilateral, the lower pairs broadly oblong, the upper pairs obovate and often much larger than the lower; the lance-shaped, long-pointed stipules are from 1 to 2 centimeters long, the glandless leaf-stalks from 1.5 to 4 centimeters long, the leaf-axis flat on the upper side. The flowers form long clusters at the ends of branches, or in the upper leaf-axils; they are very short-stalked and subtended by rounded bracts from 10 to 15 millimeters long, which fall away; the sepals are about 10 millimeters long, the obovate, clawed petals nearly twice as long; there are 7, perfect stamens, and 3 imperfect ones (staminodes). The pod is straight, or nearly so, papery in texture, black, shining, from 10 to 15 centimeters long, about 15 millimeters wide, longitudinally 4-winged, cross-partioned between the numerous, 4-sided, compressed seeds, and splits longitudinally to release them.
Cassia alata Linnaeus, Species Plantarum 378. 1753.
Herpetica alata Rafinesque, Sylva Telluriana 123. 1838.