Crotalaria capensis

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Botanical Name
Crotalaria capensis
Fabaceae - The legume and pod-bearing family. (Pea & Bean Family)
krow-ta-LAY-ree-uh kah-PEN-sis
Common Name(s)
English: Eared Rattle-pod; Cape laburnum; Yellow Pea
Afrikaans: Klapperpeul; Geelkeurtjie
IsiXhosa: ihlolo getyane
IsiZulu: Bukheshezane
Tshivenda: Musumbudza-nduhu
Plant Group
  • Tree A woody, self-supporting perennial plant usually with a single main stem and generally growing more than 6 meters tall.
Plant Size
  • Very Small
    Tree3m to 4m
    Shrub25cm to 50cm
    Perennial/ground coverUp to 10cm
    Bulb10cm to 20cm
    SucculentUp to 5cm
  • Partial Shade The area is in shade for part of the day and in full sun for part of the day.
  • Sun The area is in full sun for all or most of the day, all year round.
General Information
  • Attractive fruits, berries or seeds Brightly coloured fruits or berries increase and extend the visual impact of the plant and are especially attractive to birds and other small wildlife.
  • Drought Tolerance: Moderate The plant is moderately adapted to arid conditions and can survive short periods of drought and high temperatures without extra water.
  • Evergreen Plants that have leaves all year round.
  • Frost: Half-hardy The plant is able to survive low temperatures and some frost but requires protection against severe frost.
  • Sand tolerant Plants adapted to survive in nutrient poor, very sandy soils.
  • Water Wise Plant species originating from low rainfall regions that require less water to survive and thrive than other plant species.
  • Wind Tolerant Plants able to withstand the effect of strong winds.
Specific Information

​Crotalaria capensis​ is a small, upright, fast growing tree with drooping branches.  They are pollinated mainly by carpenter bees which make a soothing buzz as they collect pollen and nectar. The name 'Rattle pod' refers to the dried seed pods which rattle in the wind.

As with other members of the legume family, bacteria living in the roots are able to fix atmospheric nitrogen, making it available to the plant. The nitrogen is ultimately released into the soil making it available to other plants. This, and its speed of growth make it an excellent pioneer plant for a new garden.

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large pea flower on long drooping sprays

  • All Year Plants will seldom bloom for the entire season as given in the list, but should flower during a period within these parameters.
  • Spring to Autumn Plants will seldom bloom for the entire season as given in the list, but should flower during a period within these parameters.
  • yellow
Growth Rate
  • Very Fast Specifying growth rate can be very misleading as there is considerable variation of growth rate depending on type and species of plant, available water, supplementary feeding, mulching and general care, as well as the plants suitability and adaptability to the garden environment.
Plant Uses
  • Accent or Focal Point A plant used to attract the attention because of its colour or form.
  • Attracts bees, butterflies or other insects This plant attracts insects which can be food for birds or other creatures in your garden.
  • Attracts Birds This plant will attract birds.
  • Border A strip of ground, at the edge of a driveway or path in which ornamental plants or shrubs are planted.
  • Boundary A plant useful for planting around the edges of the property to form a green or colourful backdrop, an impenetrable hedge, to hide walls or create privacy.
  • Filler Either a fast growing tree or shrub used temporarily to fill in an area while the permanent plants grow to a desired size, or a plant used to fill gaps in borders or beds.
  • Hedge Suitable trees or shrubs planted relatively close together so that the branches intertwine to create a barrier. This can be formal – the plants are regularly trimmed to produce a neat shape, or informal – the plants are left to themselves to create a natural hedgerow.
  • Pioneer for new gardens A very fast growing plant, able to withstand hardship, that can be used to populate land that has recently been cleared of natural vegetation. These plants pave the way for slower-growing species by adding nutrients to the soil and creating leaf litter.
  • Provides light / dappled shade A tree with an open to sparse canopy, through which varying degrees of sunlight can penetrate.
  • Rock Garden An area constructed of larger rocks, arranged naturally, to emphasise the use of stones as a main element. Generally plants used do not need a lot of care.
  • Screen A tall hedge of suitable plants planted closely together and used as a windbreak, to block a bad view, to separate parts of the garden or as a backdrop.
  • Suitable for coastal gardens Plants adapted to dry, sandy soil, forceful wind, limited rainfall and intense sunlight.
  • Suitable for smaller gardens Such plants do not have invasive root systems, remain small or controllable and can often be grown in containers.
  • Wild Garden An indigenous garden planted for the benefit of wildlife and birds. Provides food, water, a variety of mini-biomes and no poisonous chemicals are used.
Distribution and Habitat

in the Western Cape, the Eastern Cape, KwaZulu-Natal, Free State; Mpumalanga, and Limpopo, as well as Swaziland, Zimbabwe, Mozambique and Malawi, in fynbos, thicket, forest, coastal bush, grassland, along river and streams and along forest margins - also a pioneer species in disturbed areas

Planting Suggestions

Plant Crotalaria capensis  in any soil that is well drained. Enrich with compost and mulch well if optimum growth is required. The rattle-pod will grow best in areas that have moderate to good rainfall or have a constant supplementary water source. Protect from severe frost. Although they have survived the drought in the Eastern Cape so far, the specimens in my garden have fewer flowers and the foliage has become somewhat sparse. Prune when young to form a small tree or prune and pinch back growing tips to form a bushy shrub. The rattle pod seeds freely and unwanted seedlings are easily removed.

The old method of digging a deep hole and filling it with soil and compost has resulted in many trees failing to thrive, dying, rotting at the base or worse still, falling over in later years due to poor root development.  Refer to the following sites for the best method of planting trees: Planting a tree

International Society of Arboriculture: New Tree Planting

Tree People: Plant the right way

For those of you who have a clay problem try:

Rod's Garden: Planting in clay soil

Medicinal Uses

No data found.

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