Wild Weeds – Weed of the Month
Showy Crotalaria is a part of a large genus of plants (Crotalaria sp.) that have a lot of similar features. Luckily, Showy Crotalaria is often easily identified due to its ‘showy’ nature. After germination and in the first few stages of growth it has a similar appearance to head lettuce/cabbage, due to the large and prominent leaves. Germination typically begins in later summer, and mature plants are producing viable seeds by mid to late fall. The plant can reach great heights quickly, with some plants maturing at heights above 6 feet with base leaves reaching lengths of 6 inches.
The plant begins flowering in fall with yellow flowers, and producing short, thick seed pods soon after. The flowers are vibrant and can be seen from a distance. The plant is a legume, meaning it deposits nitrogen back into the soil, and it can thrive in sandy soils of Florida. However, its aggressive nature make it undesirable to plant.
Showy Crotalaria, like other Crotalarias, is toxic to livestock. The high amount of alkaloids often cause issues in cattle and horses so be sure to remove if identified in a livestock pasture. Showy Crotalaria is also often called Showy Rattlebox due to the sound the seeds make when dried. The seed pods have a tendency to stay on the plant long after the leaves and flowers have died off, once dried the inner seeds detach from the pod and when shaken by the wind, tend to rattle.
It is important to gain control of a population of Showy Crotalaria quickly. The prolific seed pods and ability to persist in tough soil conditions means this plant can easily out-compete pasture grass and other desirable species. Birds and other wildlife can often carry the seeds so you may see this plant pop up in your garden or yard, identifying it quickly is the key to control as well as eliminating the risk of consuming it,
Invasive Species (Potential)
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. Showy Crotalaria is labeled as ‘Caution’, and the invasive assessment has not been completed. Learn more here: https://assessment.ifas.ufl.edu/assessments/crotalaria-spectabilis/
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.