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Crotalaria capensis

   (Family: Fabaceae)
Afrikaans: Kaapse klapperpeul English: Cape rattle-pod, Cape laburnum Zulu: Bukheshezane  EDIT
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Plant Type: EDIT  Shrub
Height: 2 - 5m
Rarity Status:
Preferred position:
Full Sun
Tolerated soil:  
  Sand (coarse texture, drains easily),
Clay (fine texture, holds a lot of water),
Loam (gritty, moist, and retains water easily)
Flowering time EDIT
x x x x           x x x
Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec
Flower colours
Flower shape
  Carpenter bees
  Flower info
  Clusters of large, very pretty flowers, have bright yellow petals which are often edged with red. They are borne in lovely long pendulous sprays at their best between October and April, but often found on the bush throughout the year.
Leaf shape EDIT
Leaf margin
Leaf type
Leaf texture Smooth
Bark / Stem type
  Leaf info EDIT
  Attractive trifoliate leaves are bright green above and blue-green beneath, and the young growth is silvery blue.
Fruit type EDIT
Fruit colour
Sow seeds in Spring
  Seeds per fruit 10
  Seed info EDIT
  The fruit, borne January to June, are inflated hollow pods that are light brown when ripe. When the pods are dry, the ripe seeds rattle in the wind.
Description EDIT
Pretty, fast growing shrub / small tree.
Produces showy spikes of yellow pea flowers.
Growing EDIT
Prune lower branches to form a standard or small tree or pinch back growing tips to form bushy shrub. Easy to cultivate, it tolerates drought and other harsh conditions equally well but thrives if fed and watered regularly.

It prefers full sun, and will tolerate most soils as long as they are well drained and enriched with compost. Crotalaria likes a reasonable, regular amount of water so will do best in areas that have moderate to good rainfall as it has poor drought tolerance.

Sensitive to frost, so it will need protection when grown in gardens where severe frost may occur.

It is best grown from seed sown in autumn or spring, in well-drained soil. Seeds germinate easily. Soaking seed in hand-hot water and treating with a fungicide that combats pre-and post-emergence damping off, although not essential for germination, will increase the number of successful seedlings. Seed germinates in approximately two weeks. Prick out soon after the first pair of true leaves have developed. Protect young plants from frost. The growth rate is fast, up to 1 m per year. The plants will flower in the second year.

Seed can also be sown in situ especially when used for rehabilitation projects.

Propagation from cuttings taken from young growth may also be successful.
Distribution EDIT
Found on forest margins, in coastal bush, and in riverine areas. Occurs in Transkei and KwaZulu-Natal, from the Cape Peninsula, Eastern Cape, Free State, Gauteng, Swaziland and Mozambique.
History EDIT
The genus name Crotalaria derived from the Greek word krotalon, meaning castanet, refers to the sound of the ripe seeds rattling in the dry pod. The species name capensis means of the Cape.
Browsed by buck and livestock, it is often used as fodder.

Good fast growing pioneer plant for windbreaks and binding sandy soil.

Already grown in Europe for more than 200 years, this plant has much decorative horticultural value.

Can be lovely used as a decorative hedge, an informal shrub border or as a screen. It makes a good flowering specimen tree ideal for the small garden, or use it mixed in an informal bed to make a lovely display.
Ecology EDIT
Attracts sunbirds.

Members of the legume family have a symbiotic relationship with bacteria that live in their roots: these nitrifying bacteria are able to fix atmospheric nitrogen, making it available to the plant that is hosting them. When the plant dies, the nitrogen is released to the soil enriching it, and is then also available to other plants. This is what makes a lot of members of this family good pioneers-the first plants to inhabit a damaged or disturbed area, making it more habitable for other plants to also settle themselves.

They are pollinated mainly by carpenter bees. Blue butterfly larvae, of the family Lycaenidae, parasitize the pods. Chameleons are often found on the bushes waiting to predate the adult butterflies.
Member Comments
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2 March 2014 20:45
When we started our garden we planted quite a few of these. They tolerate our clay/rock soil, are waterwise and grow fast. They look very pretty when in flower and the birds love them.
They can become a bit of a weed, as they re-seed themselves very easily and are difficult to remove once they get their roots into our heavy soil.
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