Shrub large; Tree small
2 -5 m
Yellow; pea-shaped; spring summer autumn
sun; small area trees; sandy soils; slope bank; clay soils; rockery; wildlife carpenter bees butterflies chameleons butterfly host; narrow spaces; fast-growing easy-care
fynbos; coastal eastern cape; grassland; coastal kzn; wetland; bushveld; woodland forest
thicket; subtropical east coast; highveld; western cape; bushveld savanna
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A well-known and popular shrub or small tree, the Cape rattle-pod, also known as the Cape laburnum, is an attractive shrub for a wide range of gardens. Evergreen and quick-growing, with a slender trunk, the plant commonly forms a narrow tree structure of between 2 and 5 m. The natural shape forms a multi-branched screening shrub, but is easily pruned into a tree form, where branches droop attractively. Trifoliate leaves are a silvery blue when young, darkening to a brighter green as they age, but retaining theblue/green undersides. It is chosen though, for the bunches of attractive bright yellow pea-shaped flowers. These often come tinged with a blush of red and hang in drooping clusters from the tips of the branches from October through to April, with the odd one or two on show through the year. The fruiting pods, which give it the common name, are conspicuous from January to June, green when young, then ripening to a light brown. The ripe seeds inside the pods rattle in the wind until the pods eventually split open to spill their contents. Major habitats: in Albany thicket, forest margins, Fynbos, grassland, eastern coastal belt, disturbed places, and close to rivers and streams. Distribution range: Eastern Cape, Free State, KwaZulu-Natal, Limpopo, Mpumalanga, Western Cape. Crotolaria capensis is widespread along the eastern Escarpment from the Soutpansberg through Swaziland to northern KwaZulu-Natal, where it extends further south along the coast to Knysna and is naturalized on the Cape Peninsula. Outside South Africa, this species is widespread through Mozambique, eastern Zimbabwe and southern Malawi. The Cape rattle-pod makes an effective wind barrier or screening shrub as it is fast growing and is usually a multi-stemmed shrub. Carpenter bees are the main pollinators, and the Blue butterfly larvae parasites the seed pods. Chameleons also enjoy hiding amongst the leaves as they wait to catch adult butterflies. The Cape Rattle-pod prefers full sun, moderate amounts of rain, and will grow in a variety of soils as long as they drain well. It survives a typical dry season if grown in suitable conditions, and does best in warmer frost-free areas. Seeds germinate readily within 2 weeks. They will grow up to 1m a year and a shrub grown from seed will flower in its second year. Both C. natalitia and C. capensis are excellent choices for new gardens and in newly established beds as they fix nitrogen in the soils, improving soil conditions for nearby species. Fast growing soil improvers, they work well as pioneers in various conditions.