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Chamaecrista flower

Chamaecrista fasciculata is an annual prairie legume, also known as Partridge Pea. It is native to areas from Central Mexico to central Minnesota. Chamaecrista is a very important an interesting plant to study for many reasons.

  • Chamaecrista thrives in sandy, disturbed soils and is a nitrogen-fixing legume. This makes Chamaecrista a great potential bio-fuel which can grown on marginal land and/or nitrogen depleted farmland. Chamaecrista would not only produce biomass that could be converted into fuel, but it could also replenish the soils nitrogen levels at the same time.
  • Past Chamaecrista studies have been used in climate prediction models in order to determine how plants of different ecotypes may respond to increasing global temperatures (Etterson and Shaw 2001). By understanding the important factors that effect flowering and reproductive success of Chamaecrista, we may be better able to predict environmental responses to climate changes.
  • Chamaecrista’s phylogenetic position branching near the origin of the legume family makes it ideal for investigating the genetic regulation of shoot development and flowering time. Through a comparative approach, Chamaecrista homologs of genes in Arabidopsis and Pisum flowering time networks can be identified and analyzed. (Ehrenreich et al. 2009, Genetics183:325; Weller et al. 2009, J. Exp. Bot. 60:2493; Wenden et al. 2009, New Phytologist,184:153).

This summer, the Singer lab of Carleton College Biology Department completed a larger scale plant study of genetically identical Chamaecrista in three different locations. All Chamaecrista seed studied is suspected to have originally come from Weaver Dunes nature preserve. These seed was transplanted approximately 30 years ago into the Cowling Arboretum and McKnight prairie. The research this summer focused on identifying differences in flowering time and plant morphology between different Chamaecrista sites. Since all the seed is supposedly identical, differences can be attributed to variation in micro-ecosystem ecology and/or gene expression regulation.

The links below contain more specific findings for each site studied as well as other Chamaecrista resources.