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Crotalaria goreensis Guill. & Perr. 1832
(Fabaceae — the pea family)
subfamily: Faboideae – the bean subfamily
common name: Gambia Pea
Crotalaria comes from the Greek κροταλον (krotalon), a rattle or castanets, referring to the sound the dried seed pods make when shaken. I have been unable to find the derivation of goreensis, but assume it must be named after a person or a place with connections to tropical Africa, from where this plant originates. There is also a fish with the same appellation, Ephippus goreensis, the East Atlantic African Spadefish.
The leaves are alternate, compound, trefoil, with the terminal leaf longer than the laterals. Each leaflet is up to 8 cm long, 1–2.5 cm broad, elliptic or obovate, the base tapering and the margins entire, the apex either pointed or rounded – there is a great deal of variation in the leaflet shape of this species. The undersides of the blades are sparsely covered with very fine hairs.
The flowers are arranged in inflorescences in 10–20-flowered racemes, which are up to 25 cm long. The pedicels are only a few millimetres long; the calyx up to 5 mm, and pubescent. The corolla is approximately 1 cm long, mostly yellow, but often with orange or red-brown.
The dehiscent, non-fleshy pods are 15–20 cm long, just under 1 cm wide, and pubescent. The 16 or so seeds each pod contains are 2.5–4 mm long, and orange-brown in colour.
The various Crotalaria species are food plants for several caterpillars, including those of:
Most species of Crotalaria are poisonous to some extent, and can cause sickness or even death in grazing animals. Crotalaria goreensis is sometimes grown as a green manure crop, and it is thought that it was probably originally imported for this purpose. It is certainly a soil-improver, due to the nitrogen-fixing nodules on its roots.
Page last updated 17th March 2018