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Genus Crotalaria Family Fabaceae
Subfamily Faboideae

Description: Herbs and shrubs, annuals and perennials.

Leaves alternate, simple, 1-foliolate or palmately compound with 3–7 leaflets; leaflets often with translucent glands; stipulate; stipels absent.

Flowers usually in terminal racemes, sometimes leaf opposed or rarely axillary; bracteate. Calyx 5-toothed, ± equal, sometimes 2-lipped with upper 2 teeth ± united and lower 3 teeth ± united. Corolla venation sometimes dark; standard ± circular or ovate, sometimes pubescent outside; wings shorter than standard, with a patch of ruffles in rows; keel curved to 90?, ciliate, sometimes incurved, beak tip sometimes twisting spirally. Stamen monadelphous, sheath split on upper side; anthers alternately long and basifixed and short and dorsifixed. Ovary ?2-ovuled; style incurved or bent, longitudinal line of hairs on inside; stigma terminal.

Pods inflated, dehiscence sometimes incomplete; seeds ± reniform, with or without an aril, usually smooth, funicles slender.


Photo © ANBG

Distribution and occurrence: World: 650 spp., pantrop., especially S Hemi. Aust.: >40 spp. (18 spp. endemic, others native or naturalized), all mainland States except Vic.

Many species are reported toxic to stock; some are cultivated for green manure.

Text by C. Gardner & G.J. Harden
Taxon concept:

Taxa not yet included in identification key
Crotalaria retusa

 Key to the species 
1Leaves simple or 1-foliolate.2
Leaves 3–7-foliolate.9
2Leaves 2–10 mm wide, mostly linear to oblong, occasionally elliptic.3
Leaves >10 mm wide, ovate to obovate or elliptic to lanceolate.
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5
3Ovary and pods hairy; pods 2.5–3.5 cm long; leaves usually 4–6.5 cm long.Crotalaria juncea
Ovary and pods glabrous; pods 0.6–1 cm long; leaves mostly 0.4–4 cm long.
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4
4Erect plants to 1 m high; leaves 2–5 cm long, length:breadth ratio of 5–20:1; inflorescences with usually 7–35 well-separated flowers on racemes to 30 cm long; standard petal circular, emarginate at apex.Crotalaria montana
Ascending or erect plant with many stems, to 40 cm high; leaves usually 0.6–2.5 cm long, with length:breadth ratio of 2–8:1; inflorescences with up to 10 flowers, usually crowded or overlapping on racemes less than 10 cm long; standard petal ovate to oblong or obovate, acute or rounded at apex.
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Crotalaria brevis
5Stipules leafy, broad-ovate to broad-falcate, to 10 mm long, persistent.6
Stipules linear to narrow-ovate, to 5 mm long, sometimes caducous.
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7
6Shrub or small tree 2–5 m high; stems and lower surface of leaves densely pubescent, sometimes glabrescent; calyx hairy.Crotalaria lunata
Shrub to 2 m high; stems and lower surface of leaves glabrous, ± glaucous; calyx glabrous.
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Crotalaria spectabilis
7Leaves simple, upper surface glabrous.Crotalaria mitchellii
Leaves 1-foliolate, upper surface of leaves densely tomentose, although sometimes glabrescent.
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8
8Leaves 1–4 cm long; flowers c. 8 mm long, mostly yellow and red; plants prostrate to ascending, <50 cm high.Crotalaria smithiana
Leaves 4–7 cm long; flowers mostly 40–45 mm long; greenish yellow; plants erect to 1 m high.
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Crotalaria cunninghamii
9Leaflets 5–7.Crotalaria grahamiana
Leaflets 3.
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10
10Stipules leafy, to 25 mm long.Crotalaria goreensis
Stipules not as above.
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11
11Ovary and pods glabrous; flowers 20–55 mm long.Crotalaria agatiflora
Ovary and pods ± pubescent; flowers <20 mm long.
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12
12At least terminal leaflets mostly >3 cm long.13
Leaflets mostly <3 cm long.
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18
13Leaflets broad-obovate to broad-elliptic, to 4.5 cm wide.14
Leaflets linear or oblong to lanceolate or elliptic, occasionally obovate, to 2.5 cm wide.
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15
14Racemes c. 10-flowered; stipules ± filiform, 2–15 mm long, persistent; stem hairs short and curved-ascending or long and spreading.Crotalaria incana
Racemes c. 40-flowered; stipules absent or rarely to 3 mm long and then caducous; stem hairs short and appressed.
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Crotalaria pallida
15Lateral leaflets much reduced, usually less than half the length of terminal leaflet; stems and leaves mostly grey-pubescent.Crotalaria eremaea
Lateral leaflets usually at least half the length of the terminal leaflet; stems and leaves not grey-pubescent.
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16
16Calyx tube pubescent; leaflets mostly <1 cm wide; pods 2–3.5 cm long.17
Calyx tube glabrous; leaflets 0.8–2.5 cm wide; pods 3.5–4.5 cm long.
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Crotalaria zanzibarica
17Stipules linear, 1–3 mm long, ± persistent; upper or both surfaces of leaflets glandular; flowers yellow, without markings.Crotalaria dissitiflora
Stipules absent or minute; upper surface of leaflets not glandular; flowers yellow with purplish brown markings.
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Crotalaria lanceolata
18Leaflets >1 cm wide.Crotalaria incana
Leaflets mostly <1 cm wide.
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19
19Pods 2-seeded, c. 5 mm long.Crotalaria medicaginea
Pods >2-seeded, >10 mm long.
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20
20Leaflets hairy on both surfaces; lateral leaflets much reduced, usually less than half the length of terminal leaflet.Crotalaria eremaea
Leaflets glabrous above; lateral leaflets usually at least half the length of terminal leaflet.
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21
21Flowers c. 30 per raceme; upper surface of leaflets glandular.Crotalaria dissitiflora
Flowers 1–10 per raceme; upper surface of leaflets not glandular.
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22
22Racemes of 1–8 flowers in axils of upper leaves; leaflets obovate to narrow-obovate, terminal leaflet 7–15 mm long.Crotalaria virgulata
Racemes of 8–16 flowers, terminal and leaf-opposed; leaflets narrow-elliptic to oblanceolate, terminal leaflet 10–30 mm long.
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Crotalaria distans

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