Singapore Government Logo

A Singapore Government Agency Website

Senna alata


Senna alata (Linnaeus) Roxburgh

Family Name: Fabaceae (Leguminosae)
Synonyms: Cassia alata Linnaeus
Common Name: Candle Bush, Empress Candle Plant, Seven Golden Candlesticks, Candlestick Cassia, Candlestick Senna, Christmas Candle, Ringworm Cassia, Ringworm Bush, Gelenggang, Daun Kurap, 翅荚决明


Family Name
Genus Epithet
Species Epithet
Name Authority
Name Status (botanical)
Common Names

Classifications and Characteristics

Plant Division Angiosperms (Flowering Seed Plants)
Plant Growth Form Shrub
Lifespan (in Singapore) Perennial
Mode of Nutrition Autotrophic
Maximum Height 4 m


Native Distribution Venezula, Brazil, Columbia

Description and Ethnobotany

Growth Form Erect shrub, able to grow up to 3 - 4 m tall.
Foliage Pinnately compound leaves are composed of 6 - 12 pairs of leaflets (30 - 60 cm long). Oblong leaflets are smooth and thinly leathery (6 - 15 cm long, 3.5 - 7.5 cm wide). They have a rounded tip with a slight indentation in the middle.
Flowers Flowers are arranged in a vertical column and bloom from the base of the column. The inflorescence, known as a raceme, resembles a lit, yellow candle, because the flowers at the base are yellow, while the unopened flower buds at the top are covered by orange bracts.
Fruit Winged pods are dark purple to black, smooth and 4-sided. They contain 50 - 60 flattened, triangular to squarish seeds.
Habitat Often occurs on wet soil in wastelands and flood plains.
Associated Fauna Ants protect the plant from caterpillars and are rewarded by nectar produced by extrafloral nectaries.
Cultivation This easy-to-grow, fast-growing species is highly adaptable, tolerating both drought and waterlogged soils. Individual should be spaced 2 - 5 m apart. It tends to attract ants. Propagate by seed, division, or semi-hardwood cuttings. Plants started from seed will flower in about 6 months. To prevent it from becoming invasive, removed the seed pods before they split open.
Etymology Genus Senna is derived from the Arabic name "sana", which refers to the laxative leaves and pods. Species alata means wing-like fruits.
Ethnobotanical Uses Medicinal: The leaves and plant sap have anti-fungal properties, because they contain chrysophanic acid. In the Philippines, it is added to shampoo and soap for its anti-fungal properties. It also contains saponin which acts like a laxative and can be used to remove intestinal parasites. 

Landscaping Features

Desirable Plant Features Ornamental Flowers
Landscape Uses Parks & Gardens, Small Gardens

Fauna, Pollination and Dispersal

Fauna Pollination Dispersal Associated Fauna Caterpillar Food Plant, Bee-Attracting

Plant Care and Propagation

Light Preference Full Sun
Water Preference Moderate Water
Plant Growth Rate Fast
Rootzone Tolerance Moist Soils, Well-Drained Soils
Propagation Method Seed


Foliage Retention Evergreen
Mature Foliage Colour(s) Green
Leaf Area Index (LAI) for Green Plot Ratio 4.5 (Shrub & Groundcover - Dicot)

Floral (Angiosperm)

Flower Colour(s) Yellow / Golden
Flower Grouping Cluster / Inflorescence

Fruit, Seed and Spore

Seed Quantity Per Fruit Numerous (>20)

Image Repository



Master ID 1157
Species ID 2450
Flora Disclaimer The information in this website has been compiled from reliable sources, such as reference works on medicinal plants. It is not a substitute for medical advice or treatment and NParks does not purport to provide any medical advice. Readers should always consult his/her physician before using or consuming a plant for medicinal purposes.
Species record last updated on: 15 September 2023.