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Crotalaria natalitia


Water Needs

low; moderate; high

Crotalaria natalitia
Shrub medium
Pioneer Rattle-pod

2 m


Light Conditions





lowers:Yellow, pea-shaped; October - April; spring summer autumn

Garden Situation

sun; container; semi-shade; dry soils; sandy soils; wildlife bees insects butterfly host; narrow spaces;


woodland forest; bushveld; grassland; coastal kzn;


subtropical east coast; highveld; bushveld savanna

Rain Season


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The smaller, Pioneer Rattle-pod is not as well- known as the Cape Rattle pod, Crotalaria capensis, but is well worth its place in local gardens. It forms a large woody shrub of up to 3m in height. The bean family, FABACEAE, are excellent soil improvers, as they release Nitrogen back into the soils, making it available for other plants to use. This variety in particular, as suggested by the common name, is a most attractive pioneer shrub for new gardens. It does have a wide distribution range and is quite common within this range.  Growth form: it has a fairly open and loose form with lightly hairy, dark brown branches growing at an angle from the central stem. The leaves are typically trifoliate branching in 3 leaflets cluster along the branches. Each leaf it 15 -50mm long and 3.5-15mm wide, usually tapering to a soft point. Flowers are a soft yellow against blue/grey leaves, often with a reddish/brown tinge. These give off a scent that attracts honeybees. Flowering from March to July, the flowers hang in drooping clumps of up to 200 mm long.  Cylindrical, inflated  pods, 50 mm long, hang from branch tips from May through to December; these are attractively, subtly bi-coloured; dark green on the top half, and a paler green on the lower half of the pod. C. natalitia thrives in loamy and sandy soils. The Pioneer rattlepod is quite easy to propagate by seed which should be sown 30cm apart. Provincial distribution: Along the coastal strip from KwaZulu-Natal, Limpopo, Mpumalanga Soutpansberg to the KwaZulu-Natal coast. Natural habitats are forest margins, miombo woodland that dominate the area, savanna and montane grasslands, close to lakes and streams as well as disturbed places. ​ What are Miombo woodland: Covering much of central and southern Africa, the Miombo woodlands are a vast region of tropical grasslands, savannas and shrublands which provide food and shelter for a diverse range of wildlife including antelopes, giraffes, rhinos, lions and some of the largest populations of elephants in Africa. They are named for the oak-like "miombo" trees (Brachustegia spp) that dominate the area. The woodlands are home to some 8,500 plant species over 300 which are trees.

Crotalaria natalitia
Crotalaria natalitia
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