Crotalaria pumila: Low rattlebox

Family: Fabaceae
Common name: Low rattlebox, Rattlebox

A beautiful plant that grows in the wild, on roadsides and hillsides all over India, Low rattlebox can be grown in your garden easily. They are closely related to Crotalaria pallida also called Smooth Rattlebox.

Both plants look very similar in their leaves, flowers and seedpods. But Low rattlebox has smaller leaves, flowers and seedpods; make it prettier than the much taller relative. And Low rattlebox plants are not as commonly seen as Smooth rattlebox plants.

These plants grow to a height of 1-1.5 feet with trifoliolate leaves, each leaf having three distinct leaflets with smooth margins. The petioles connecting the leaves to the stem are quite long, about 2-3 inches. The flowers grow on the tips of stem on long racemes which are again not as long as the ones on Smooth rattlebox plants.

The flowers are much more closely arranged so that over 15 flowers are bunched together on a short raceme. The lower flowers open first while the upper ones are still buds. Flowers are very beautiful; yellow with shades of orange and red mostly on the outer surface of the petals. There is a large petal curved up and outwards. The lower petals are smaller and fused together hiding the reproductive organs.

The flowers are very attractive to birds, bees and insects who help pollinate them. Once pollinated, the flowers turn into small 1 inch long pods containing many seeds. These seeds pods don’t have enough space on the raceme to hang down like it does on the Smooth rattlebox; they are crowded and pointing outwards horizontally.

These seeds change color from light green to dark green and then brown on maturity. That’s when they start rattling because of the dry seeds inside, the reason they get their name ‘rattlebox’.

Propagation is from seeds, which are released when the seedpods burst open distributing the seeds.

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