Coffee Weed

Visitors driving into Camp Salmen on Parish Parkway these days will be able to appreciate our annual crop of tall, rangy Coffee Weed (Sesbania herbacea), the star of the park’s fascinating and constantly evolving ditch life. It pops up toward the end of the growing season and quickly grows into huge four and five-foot high banks of emerald green along the edge of the roadway — until the parish mowers arrive.

 

 

The plant has an appearance that vaguely reminds one of a fern or mimosa, some confuse it with Rattlebox. It has small, paired leaves, fringing splays of delicate, foot-long, star-shaped fronds that radiate from tall, spindly stalks. It also happens to greatly appreciate the moisture it finds in our roadside ditch. They eventually sprout pretty little orange-yellow flowers that beget long, skinny seedpods containing the namesake bean. Unfortunately, these beans won’t make a good pot of coffee because, in spite of the name, they’re considered toxic by some since cattle have been known to die after eating them, but who wants to graze along Parish Parkway anyway?

 

For being just a plant, they sure do move a lot. Their vertical growth is so fast you can almost hear them crackling at night. In addition to that, they’re heliotropic (Greek: helio = sun, tropic = turn). At the beginning of each day their leaves and stems face east toward the morning sun over Gause Blvd. As the day moves on they slowly twist to follow the sun and face west at sunset over Bayou Liberty at the other end of the park. This procedure obviously helps them drink up as much of the sun’s photons as they can. The plant also performs the nocturnal act of nyctinasty, (Greek: nukt = night + nasty). At dark the leaves fold up and stay that way for the night, which seems like an appropriate thing to do after such a hard day’s work.

Hours of Operation

Friday - Sunday
9am to 4:30pm

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