1. Family: Fabaceae Lindl.
    1. Crotalaria L.

      1. This genus is accepted, and its native range is Tropics & Subtropics.


    Legumes of the World. Edited by G. Lewis, B. Schrire, B. MacKinder & M. Lock. Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew. (2005)

    Shrubs, shrublets or perennial herbs, rarely small trees or annual herbs
    Seasonally dry tropical, subtropical to warm temperate forest, woodland, xerophytic shrubland and grassland, often in disturbed places, on sand or rocky outcrops
    especially in the southern hemisphere: most spp. in Africa and Madagascar (c. 510 spp., mostly E and southern Africa, c. 34 of which endemic to Madagascar and 5 widespread in Old World); c. 18 spp. widespread in tropical Asia; c. 60 spp. endemic to the Indian subcontinent; c. 5 spp. to W Asia, c. 15 spp. to Indo-China, c. 12 spp. to China, c. 6 spp. to Malesia and 9 spp. to Australia; 59 spp. endemic (and a further 15 introduced) in the New World (fide Windler & Skinner in ms.), with c. 35 spp. in S America (mainly Brazil), 20 spp. in N and C America (mainly Mexico) and c. 5 spp. widespread in New World
    Crotalaria appears to be closely related to Lotononis (q.v.); the two genera are unique in the family in their accumulation of several macrocyclic pyrrolizidine alkaloids (Van Wyk & Verdoorn, 1990); pyrrolizidine bases, however, are also known (Kinghorn & Smolenski, 1981: 592-593) from Ammodendron (Sophoreae) and Adenocarpus and Laburnum (Genisteae); infrageneric relationships are poorly known but the genus seems to have originated in Africa, with more recent diversification into other regions of the world; the Asian species are in need of revision

    The current state of knowledge of the Crotalarieae was reviewed by Van Wyk (1991a) and by Van Wyk & Schutte (1995a). The most conspicuous recent change has been the exclusion of the Argyrolobium group (six genera, i.e. Argyrolobium, Dichilus, Melolobium, Polhillia, Anarthrophyllum and Sellocharis), which belong in tribe Genisteae rather than in Crotalarieae, where they were previously placed (Polhill, 1981q: 399 –402). New insights into relationships within the tribe have come mainly from chemosystematic studies of alkaloids (summarised in Van Wyk & Verdoorn, 1990) and several recent generic monographs (see below).

    The Crotalarieae forms part of a monophyletic clade, the ‘core genistoids’ (Fig. 36) which also includes Genisteae, Podalyrieae, Thermopsideae, Brongniartieae, Euchresteae and Sophoreae sens. strict. (Crisp et al., 2000; Pennington et al., 2000a; Kajita et al., 2001). Crotalarieae appears to be sister to the Genisteae and both are sister to the Podalyrieae (Crisp et al., 2000; Wojciechowski et al., 2004). This clade is in turn sister to the Thermopsideae and Sophoreae sens. strict. (including Euchresteae).

    The Crotalarieae shares with the Podalyrieae the absence of a-pyridone alkaloids such as cytisine and anagyrine that are a typical feature of all other ‘core genistoid’ tribes. Despite a lack of defining characters, the monophyly of the tribe as circumscribed here is well supported by molecular evidence (Crisp et al., 2000; Wink & Mohamed, 2003) and by cladistic analyses of morphological, cytological and chemical characters (Van Wyk & Schutte, 1995a). The latter study suggested an early diversification of the genera with uniform anthers and lupanine-type esters of quinolizidine alkaloids (Pearsonia, Rothia and Robynsiophyton) followed by the poorly known Spartidium and then the so-called ‘Cape group of genera’ (Polhill, 1981q: 399–402), which now includes Lotononis and Crotalaria. Relationships between the seven genera of the ‘Cape group’ remains unresolved despite several recent molecular studies because sampling is still relatively poor. However, a basally branching position in the tribe of the ‘Cape group’, notably Lebeckia and Wiborgia — as considered by Polhill (1976, 1981q) — is now accepted here. The exclusion of the Argyrolobium group, based on morphological and chemical characters, is also strongly supported by DNA sequence data. Due to reticulate and overlapping patterns of character state distribution in the Crotalarieae sens. strict., generic delimitations are intricate and subject to misinterpretation. Several of the large and diverse genera appear to be either monophyletic or paraphyletic depending on the choice of characters. As currently circumscribed the tribe includes 11 genera and c. 1204 species (Fig. 37).


    Leguminosae, J. B. Gillett, R. M. Polhill & B. Verdcourt. Flora of Tropical East Africa. 1971

    Herbs or shrubs of very varied habit
    Leaves simple, 1-foliolate or digitately 3(–7)-foliolate; leaflets entire
    Stipules filiform to foliaceous or absent
    Flowers usually in terminal, leaf-opposed or less commonly axillary racemes, sometimes modified as heads, subumbelliform or compound, occasionally flowers solitary or in axillary clusters
    Calyx (4–)5-lobed or sometimes effectively 3-lobed by union of upper and lateral lobes on either side; tube sometimes protracted on the lower side or 2-lipped
    Corolla usually longer than the calyx, usually yellow or yellow-green, variously marked, less commonly white or blue; standard almost always with 2 callus-like appendages at the base inside, glabrous or pubescent outside; wings with rows of crescent-shaped folds between some of the veins; keel rounded or angled, generally produced into a prominent beak
    Stamens all joined, with the sheath open at least at the base; anthers dimorphic, 5 large alternating with 5 small
    Ovary usually stipitate; style curved or geniculate, almost always pubescent above; stigma usually small, rarely bilobed
    Pods subsessile to long-stipitate, usually inflated, almost always dehiscent, though sometimes tardily so, 1–many-seeded
    Seeds mostly oblique-cordiform to oblong-reniform, sometimes with a conspicuous aril.

    Leguminosae, various authors. Flora Zambesiaca 3:7. 2003

    Herbs or shrubs.
    Leaves simple, 1-foliolate or digitately 3(7)-foliolate, usually petiolate; stipules filiform to leaf-like or lacking.
    Flowers usually in terminal, leaf-opposed or less commonly axillary racemes, occasionally solitary or clustered; bract and paired bracteoles generally present.
    Calyx usually with 5 subequal lobes, sometimes the lower 3 on a short lip, sometimes 2-lipped with long lobes, occasionally with only 4 lobes or with the lateral and upper lobes largely joined on either side.
    Standard generally yellow, sometimes blue or white, often lined reddish, almost always with 2 appendages at the base inside, glabrous or hairy outside; keel rounded to angled, generally produced into a well developed beak.
    Stamens all joined into a sheath open at least at the base; anthers alternately long, basifixed, and smaller, dorsifixed.
    Style curved to geniculate, the basal portion thicker, almost always with 1–2 lines of hairs on the upper part; stigma small.
    Pod subsessile to long-stipitate, usually inflated, generally dehiscent, sometimes tardily so, 1–many-seeded.
    Seeds mostly oblique-cordiform to oblong-reniform, with a definite hilar sinus,sometimes with a conspicuous aril.
    Several species are of commercial importance as fibre crops, fodder and green manure; others are used as medicine, ornamentals, nurse crops, heavy metal indicators, human food and for soil improvement (intercropping); some cause crotalism in livestock and humans - acute but more often chronic poisoning affecting the lungs and liver - due to the ingestion of pyrrolizidine alkaloids with an unsaturated necine base; C. juncea L. (Sunn hemp) , is a major crop for its bark (phloem fibres) which provides a high quality bast fibre for cordage, fishing nets and fine paper



    Doubtfully present in:


    Native to:

    Afghanistan, Alabama, Aldabra, Algeria, Andaman Is., Angola, Angola, Argentina Northeast, Argentina Northwest, Arizona, Arkansas, Aruba, Assam, Bahamas, Bangladesh, Belize, Benin, Bismarck Archipelago, Bolivia, Borneo, Botswana, Brazil North, Brazil Northeast, Brazil South, Brazil Southeast, Brazil West-Central, Burkina, Burundi, Cambodia, Cameroon, Cape Provinces, Cape Verde, Caprivi Strip, Cayman Is., Central African Repu, Chad, Chile Central, Chile North, China North-Central, China South-Central, China Southeast, Colombia, Comoros, Congo, Connecticut, Costa Rica, Cuba, Djibouti, Dominican Republic, East Himalaya, Ecuador, Egypt, El Salvador, Equatorial Guinea, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Florida, Free State, French Guiana, Gabon, Galápagos, Gambia, Georgia, Ghana, Guatemala, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Gulf of Guinea Is., Gulf States, Guyana, Hainan, Haiti, Honduras, Illinois, India, Indiana, Iowa, Iran, Ivory Coast, Jamaica, Japan, Jawa, Kansas, Kentucky, Kenya, Korea, KwaZulu-Natal, Laccadive Is., Laos, Leeward Is., Lesotho, Lesser Sunda Is., Liberia, Libya, Louisiana, Madagascar, Malawi, Malawi, Malawi, Malaya, Mali, Maluku, Manchuria, Maryland, Masachusettes, Mauritania, Mauritius, Mexico Central, Mexico Gulf, Mexico Northeast, Mexico Northwest, Mexico Southeast, Mexico Southwest, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, Morocco, Mozambique, Mozambique, Myanmar, Namibia, Nansei-shoto, Nebraska, Nepal, Netherlands Antilles, New Guinea, New Jersey, New Mexico, New South Wales, New York, Nicaragua, Nicobar Is., Niger, Nigeria, North Carolina, Northern Provinces, Northern Territory, Oklahoma, Oman, Pakistan, Palestine, Panamá, Paraguay, Pennsylvania, Peru, Philippines, Puerto Rico, Queensland, Rhode I., Rodrigues, Rwanda, Réunion, Saudi Arabia, Senegal, Seychelles, Sierra Leone, Sinai, Socotra, Solomon Is., Somalia, South Australia, South Carolina, South China Sea, Southwest Caribbean, Sri Lanka, Sudan, Sulawesi, Sumatera, Suriname, Swaziland, Taiwan, Tanzania, Tennessee, Texas, Thailand, Tibet, Togo, Trinidad-Tobago, Uganda, Uruguay, Utah, Venezuela, Venezuelan Antilles, Vermont, Vietnam, Virginia, West Himalaya, West Virginia, Western Australia, Western Sahara, Windward Is., Wisconsin, Yemen, Zambia, Zambia, Zaïre, Zimbabwe

    Introduced into:

    Bermuda, Brazil South, Chagos Archipelago, Christmas I., Cocos (Keeling) Is., Cook Is., Easter Is., Fiji, Gilbert Is., Hawaii, Iraq, Kazan-retto, Laos, Marquesas, Mexican Pacific Is., Nauru, New Caledonia, New Zealand South, Niue, Norfolk Is., Ogasawara-shoto, Ohio, Samoa, Society Is., St.Helena, Sumatera, Tonga, Transcaucasus, Uganda, Ukraine, Uzbekistan, Vanuatu, Victoria, Windward Is.

    Crotalaria L. appears in other Kew resources:

    Date Reference Identified As Barcode Type Status
    Sep 22, 2016 Pirani, J.R. [4809], Brazil K000893495
    Sep 22, 2016 Mello-Silva, R. [CFSC11321], Brazil K000893502
    Sep 22, 2016 Lucena, M.F.A. [53], Brazil K000893508
    Sep 22, 2016 Silva, L.F. [93], Brazil K000893505
    Sep 22, 2016 Ule, E. [7934], Brazil K000893478
    Sep 22, 2016 Brooks, R.R. [TMEX468], Brazil K000893484
    Sep 22, 2016 Figueirêdo, L. [258], Brazil K000893506
    Sep 22, 2016 Melo, M.R.C.S. [174], Brazil K000893507
    Sep 22, 2016 Melo, M.R.C.S. [229], Brazil K000893509
    Sep 22, 2016 Mendonça, R.C. [3978], Brazil K000893497
    Sep 22, 2016 Mansano, V.F. [06-359], Brazil K000893496
    Sep 22, 2016 Sazima, M. [10,870], Brazil K000893481
    Sep 22, 2016 s.coll. [7795], Brazil K000893475
    Sep 22, 2016 Hatschbach, G.G. [79631], Brazil K000893487
    Sep 22, 2016 Hatschbach, G.G. [796975], Brazil K000893490
    Sep 12, 2016 Sucre, D. [3820], Brazil K000893474
    Sep 12, 2016 Glaziou [10561], Brazil K000893476
    Sep 9, 2016 Brooks, R.R. [TMEX 467], Brazil K000893494
    Sep 9, 2016 Cordeiro, J. [2707], Brazil K000893489
    Sep 3, 2016 Irwin, H.S. [34642], Brazil K000893479
    Sep 3, 2016 Delprete, P.G. [9631], Brazil K000893488
    Sep 3, 2016 Leme, R.O. [6], Brazil K000893482
    Aug 13, 2016 Silva, M.A. [4067], Brazil K000893500
    Aug 12, 2016 Anderson, W.R. [35656], Brazil K000893501
    Aug 11, 2016 Silva, M.A. [4095], Brazil K000893499
    Mar 8, 2016 Irwin, H.S. [34551], Brazil K000893498
    Mar 7, 2016 Silva, J.M. [6435], Brazil K000893486
    Mar 7, 2016 Ule, E. [s.n.], Brazil K000893477
    Mar 7, 2016 Heringer, E.P. [3774], Brazil K000893473
    Mar 7, 2016 Fonseca, M.L. [2641], Brazil K000893493
    Mar 7, 2016 Brooks, R.R. [TMEX687], Brazil K000893485
    Mar 7, 2016 Brooks, R.R. [TMEX 478], Brazil K000893492
    Mar 7, 2016 Kirkbride, M.C.G. [1020], Brazil K000893480
    Jan 1, 2009 Sazima, M. [10870], Brazil K000893483
    Jul 1, 1998 Munyenyembe, P. [733], Cameroon K000338552
    Aug 11, 1997 Cavalcanti, T.B. [839], Brazil K000893503
    Milne-Redhead, E. [11276], Tanzania 3223.000
    Milne-Redhead, E. [10632], Tanzania 4964.000
    Milne-Redhead, E. [9338], Tanzania 751.000
    Sheldon, W.G., Ethiopia 15680.000
    Rico, L. [1370], Bolivia K000295460
    Rico, L. [1598c], Bolivia K000295210
    Meurillon, A. [545], Cameroon K000086913
    Heringer, E.P. [7290], Brazil K000893472
    Laurênio, A. [291], Brazil K000893504
    Gerard, P. [Cat. no. s.n.] K001132334
    Harris, T. [166], Mozambique K000613241
    Harris, T. [291], Mozambique K000613366
    Patel, H. [7359], Mozambique K000613621
    Timberlake, J. [5030], Mozambique K000613409

    First published in Sp. Pl.: 714 (1753)

    Accepted by

    • Ninkaew, S. & al. (2017). Crotalaria L. (Fabaceae: Faboideae) in continental Southeast Asia Phytotaxa 320: 1-74.
    • Govaerts, R. (1999). World Checklist of Seed Plants 3(1, 2a & 2b): 1-1532. MIM, Deurne.


    Flora of West Tropical Africa
    • E. G. Baker in J. Linn. Soc. 42: 241 (1914).
    • —F.T.A. 2: 7
    Flora Zambesiaca
    • Polhill, Crotalaria Africa & Madagascar: 1–389 (1982).
    • Gen. Pl., ed. 5: 320 (1754).
    • Sp. Pl.: 714 (1753)
    Flora of Tropical East Africa
    • Polhill in K.B. 22: 169–348 (1968)
    • Bak. f. in J.L.S. 42: 241 (1914)
    • L., Gen. Pl., ed. 5: 320 (1754)
    • Sp. PI.: 714 (1753)


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