Crotalaria pallida: Smooth rattlebox

Family: Fabaceae
Common name: Rattlebox, Smooth rattlebox, Rattleweed, Streaked rattlepod

This small flowering shrub grows and flowers abundantly in the wild, and makes you wonder why it’s not a garden plant. Maybe, because it’s not glamorous enough to be one. But the elongated spikes with yellow flowers sure look prettier than those of ordinary garden plants. Smooth rattlebox gets its name from the seeds pods that hang from the elongated spikes, that rattle when you shake them.

The plants grow to a height of 1-1.5 meters with a hairy stem and leaves made up of 3 leaflets. The plant flowers year-round producing green spikes at the tip of the stem, which then turns yellow when the flowers open.

The flowers are very pretty indeed, tall spikes with columns of yellow flowers pointing to the sky. These flowers are fertilized by butterflies and bees that are attracted to them. Smooth rattlebox plants then produce green hanging seedpods, which later turn brown as the seeds mature. Low rattlebox plants, a very close relative, has similar flowers and seedpods, but much smaller.

Smooth rattlebox roots contain nitrogen-fixing bacteria, thus helping in improving soil quality. The plants are very sturdy tolerating drought, poor soil quality and harsh temperatures. Their flowers and seeds are using in cooking in different parts of the world. Rattlebox plants also have some medicinal uses in treatment of urinary infections, worms and inflammations.

Propagation is from seeds.

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