Wild Weeds – Weed of the Month
Rattlebox, also known as purple sesban or spanish gold, is a part of the larger Sesbania family. Many sesbanias have similar appearances and characteristics which can make them hard to identify from each other without closer inspection. Rattlebox was used as an ornamental in homes & gardens for many years due to its vibrant flowers and unique “winged” seed pods. However, Rattlebox is an aggressive plant that produces large amounts of seeds and easily spread to natural areas. The plant favors moist soil and is prone to appearing near bodies of water, and especially in ditches. When the seeds drop into these water ways they are only spread more and more.
This plant is easily identified by its vibrant orange/red flowers and fern like leaves. Trees can reach heights upwards of 15 feet but generally hover around 5-6 feet tall. Flowers bloom from June until September, and seeds persist well into the winter if the plant is undisturbed. The seed pods are unique because they have a 4 sided “wing” structure, which once dried are easily crushed to reveal the seeds.
All parts of the plant are toxic, particularly the seeds. This plant is detrimental to the environment due to its aggressive nature and likelihood of poisoning wildlife. If identified on your property the plant should be properly removed and disposed of. This plant should especially be removed if livestock have access to its location, and pastures should be routinely scouted for saplings, particularly near low-lying areas that might hold water.
Invasive species are classified as such due to its foreign nature to the environment in question and its ability to cause environmental or economic harm. Many invasive species are first introduced purposely by humans to be used as ornamentals in the lawn or garden. It is very important to research before you buy any plants to be used in your home landscape, and try to stick with Florida natives when you can. Learn more here: https://assessment.ifas.ufl.edu/assessments/sesbania-punicea/
Wild Weeds is a monthly spotlight written by Alicia Halbritter, Baker County Agriculture & Natural Resources Agent. Wild Weeds highlights weeds you may find in Florida on the roadside, while hiking, in the forest, or possibly even in your yard. Searching for more information on a particular plant? Email Alicia at firstname.lastname@example.org for more information/questions.