Quick Facts

Quick facts

  • Candle Bush (Senna alata) is plant native to tropical South America this is a spreading shrub around 2-3 m high
  • It has large leaves, that consist of 8-10 pairs of leaflets and clusters of golden-yellow flowers.
  • It is fast growing, mature in its second season.
  • It forms dense thickets restricting access to water ways and reducing the area of available grazing land.
  • It is difficult to control with physical means alone.

What Does It Look Like?

What is it?

Candle Bush (Senna alata) is a spreading shrub around 2-3 m high, but can be taller. The leaves are 15-40 cm long including the leaf stalk which is 20-40 mm long. Each leaf is made up of 8-12 pairs of leaflets which are spaced at 10-20 mm apart. Each leaflet is oblong in shape 80-110 mm long and 30-55 mm wide and increasing in size towards the apex.

The flowers are golden yellow and held in dense clusters of 20-40 flowers. They emerge from the leaf forks and are 30-60 cm long.

The fruit is shaped like a compressed cylinder, is straight or curved, 12-16 cm long and 10-15 mm with two membranous 'wings' along its length. The seeds are flat, dull and numerous (Randall & Barlow 1998; Navie 2004; PIER 2006).

For further information and assistance with identification of Candle Bush contact the herbarium in your state or territory.

Flower colour


Growth form (weed type/habit)


Where it currently grows? Preferred habitat

Candle Bush prefers sunny open areas in perennially moist soil such as along creek lines, roadsides and drainage channels, and occasionally on disturbed and overgrazed areas (Smith 2002; PIER 2006).

Are there similar species?

Candle Bush is very similar to Popcorn Senna (Senna didymobotrya) and relatively similar to Sicklepod (Senna obtusifolia), Coffee Senna (Senna occidentalis), Java Bean (Senna tora), Hairy Senna (Senna hirsuta), Smooth Senna (Senna septemtrionalis), Easter Cassia (Senna pendula var. glabrata), Pepper-leaved Senna (Senna barclayana) and the native Arsenic Bush (Senna planitiicola).

All these species generally have fewer pairs of leaflets than Candle Bush, which has 8-10 pairs per leaf. Popcorn Senna also has relatively large leaflets that have rounded tips and clusters of flowers which are initially concealed underneath large purplish-brown floral bracts. The leaflets of Hairy Senna, Arsenic Bush and Pepper-leaved Senna have pointed tips. Java Bean has flowers grouped in pairs and along with Smooth Senna has pods that are almost rounded in cross section (Navie 2004).

For a detailed comparison see Navie (2004).

Why Is It A Weed?

What are its impacts?

Native ecosystems: Candle Bush invades native bushland and forms dense thickets which impede access to waterways, reducing the available area of grazing land. It is also suspected of being poisonous to stock (Parsons & Cuthbertson 2001; Smith 2002).

How does it spread?

Candle Bush mainly reproduces by seeds which do not fall far from the parent plant. Suckers are also produced when plants are damaged. Seeds are mostly spread by water, and this dispersal mechanism is aided by the pods ability to float considerable distances. They are also dispersed in mud attached to vehicles, machinery and animals (Smith 2002; Navie 2004).

What is its history in Australia?

Candle Bush was probably introduced into Australia as an ornamental (Smith 2002) and was present in Darwin before 1891 (Parsons & Cuthbertson 2001).

How To Manage It?

Best practice management

A combination of physical and chemical control may be effective, however straight physical control methods are ineffective because of suckering.

Chemical control: The aerial parts can be slashed and then a herbicide applied to the stumps (Parsons & Cuthbertson 2001; Department of Agriculture and Food 2007).

Please see the Australian Pesticides and Veterinary Medicines Authority for chemical information http://www.apvma.gov.au 

Non-chemical control: Candle Bush seedlings can be dug out provided that all the root system is removed.

Does it have a biological control agent?


When does it grow? (lifecycle/growth calendar)

Candle Bush seeds germinate in November to December after the opening rains of the wet season. The seedlings develop rapidly attaining a height of 60-100 cm and establishing a root system in the first year. Growth ceases or slows during the dry season. Flowering may not occur in the first year but usually begins at the onset of the second dry season. Flowering occurs from June to November (Randell & Barlow 1998; Parsons & Cuthbertson 2001).

Where Is It Found?

Which states and territories is it found?


What areas within states and territories is it found?

Candle Bush is a widespread species with a scattered distribution throughout the northern and eastern parts of the country. It is most common in the coastal and sub-coastal areas of the Northern Territory and northern Queensland. It is less common along the central and southern coasts of Queensland and is also recorded in north-western Western Australia and the coastal districts of northern New South Wales (Navie 2004).

Where does it originate?

Candle Bush is native to tropical South America (Smith 2002; Navie 2004).

National And State Weed Listings

Is it a Weed of National Significance (WONS)?


Where is it a declared weed?


Government weed strategies and lists – Weeds Australia

Is it on the National Alert List for Environmental Weeds?


Government weed strategies and lists – Weeds Australia

Is it on the Agricultural Sleeper List?


Government weed strategies and lists – Weeds Australia

Names And Taxonomy

Main scientific name

Senna alata

Other scientific names (synonyms)?

  • Cassia alata L.
  • Senna multijuga (Rich.) H.S.Irwin & Barneby (misapplied by Paczkowska, G. & Chapman, A.R. 2000, The Western Australian Flora, a descriptive catalogue. 192.)

Does it have other known common name(s)?

Candelabra Plant, Candelabra Bush, Candlestick Senna, Emperor's Candlesticks, Empress, Golden Candelabra Tree, Ringworm Bush, Ringworm Scrub, Ringworm Senna, Roman Candle Tree, Seven Golden Candles, Christmas Candle, Yellowtop Weed, Alcapulco

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