Sesbane or Hemp Sesbania

Sesbania herbacea (Mill.) McVaugh – Sesbane
Sesbania exaltata (Raf.) Rydb. ex A.W. Hill – Hemp Sesbania
Sesbania macrocarpa Muhl. ex Raf.

Photos, range map, and a line drawing are below.
Click on the photos for closer looks

“Sesbane” is an annual herb in the Fabaceae (pea) family, openly branched, 10-12 feet tall. Also known as Bladderpod, Bigpod Sesbania, Bagpod, Sesbane, Coffee-bean, Bequilla, Colorado Riverhemp, Siene Weed, and Zacata de Agua. The genus name, Sesbania, is the latinized verson of the old Adansonian name, Sesban, which is presumably of Arabic origin. Herbacea refers to herb-like. The alternate species name, exaltata, refers to tall or lofty.

The leaves are alternate, pinnately compound, with numerous leaflets (30-70), and 5-16 inches in length.

The yellow flowers are in axillary racemes. 1-6 flowered. Stamens 10 (9 joined, 1 free<see line drawing>)


New Leaf and bloom

The legume fruit is linear, slender, somewhat curved, 6-12 inches long, 1/6 inch wide. 30-40 seed per fruit. July-October.

Legume seed pods

It is found in damp soils and disturbed areas from East-SE Texas to the West Cross Timbers and Edwards Plateau. Dallas, Denton, Ellis, Grayson, Kaufman, and Tarrant counties.

Many authors place this plant in the shrub category. The old dead stems are persistant with dry remenants of the legumes. Native Americans used the fibers to make a fine strong thread for fishing lines and nets. (I’ll have to try that). When growing in the water, the submerged portion of the stem develops a thickened spongy aerenchyma (an airy tissue found in roots of plants, which allows exchange of gases between the shoot and the root. It contains large air-filled cavities, which provide a low-resistance internal pathway for the exchange of gases such as oxygen and ethylene between the plant parts above the water and the submerged tissues). Click here for a Wikipedia discussion of arenchyma (really interesting, really!).

The seeds are known to be eaten by some birds including quail. However, the seeds and leaves are considered to be poisonous by many authors.


Compare the current photo above to an earlier photo below posted at our other site, Texas Travelers, back in August during the drought.


The drought is over but Mother Nature has played a harsh trick on the best-laid plans of men. Much of the boardwalk area for viewing fish, turtles and lily pads is now surrounded by this fast-growing Sesbane. Such is Nature.

Line drawing of sesbania herbaces
Sesbania-herbacea-line---CoNote the 10 stamens on the bottom right, 9 joined, 1 free.
What’s up with that? Very cool !

Note: I colored the flowers yellow
and the bean green for easy identification

U.S. Distribution


USDA, NRCS. 2009. The PLANTS Database (14 September 2009). National Plant Data Center, Baton Rouge, LA 70874-4490 USA.

Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center. Native Plant Database.

Trees, Shrubs, and Woody Vines of the Southwest. Robert A. Vines. pp 546-547. A Guide for the states of Arkansas, Louisiana, New Mexico, Oklahoma, and Texas.

Line drawing reference:

USDA-NRCS PLANTS Database / Britton, N.L., and A. Brown. 1913. An illustrated flora of the northern United States, Canada and the British Possessions. Vol. 2: 376.

Please leave a comment and let us know what invasive or exotic plant is bugging you.


About Troy

Retired Scientist and Naturalist. Avid Bible reader
This entry was posted in Ft. Worth Nature Center, Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center, Naturalists, USDA Plant Database, Wildflowers and tagged , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Sesbane or Hemp Sesbania

  1. Jane Lovedahl says:

    Thanks Troy and Martha for posting these pictures of the boardwalk at the FWNC. I was glad to see both pictures to show the changes that have happened. After we saw the most recent view during the TMN aquatic systems field trip, I was shocked at the differences in this area from my recollection of this site during a visit there a year ago.

  2. Rosaline Binnix says:

    very interesting – I liked the picture u colored green and yellow.
    this made it easier to see what ur writing about. thank you!

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