Vascular Plants of North Carolina
Account for Pursh's Rattlebox - Crotalaria purshii   de Candolle
Members of Fabaceae:
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Section 6 » Order Fabales » Family Fabaceae
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Authorde Candolle
DistributionNearly throughout the Coastal Plain, but seemingly absent in the northeastern counties -- no records east of Gates, Washington, and Pamlico counties. Also a few records in the southwestern Piedmont foothills.

This is a mainly Coastal Plain species, ranging north to southeastern VA, south to southern FL, and west to eastern LA. There are scattered records in the Piedmont foothills.
AbundanceDespite it occurring in nearly all Coastal Plain counties except in the far northeast, this is an uncommon to infrequent species, mainly in the Sandhills region and the southeastern Coastal Plain, in the Longleaf Pine (Pinus palustris) zones. Rare to uncommon in the northern half of the Coastal Plain, and extremely rare in the foothills. Because this species favors fairly well maintained Longleaf Pine habitats, it surely has decreased considerably in recent decades owing to fire suppression, logging, and other factors.
HabitatThis is a species of mesic but sandy pinelands, for the most part, but not in the more xeric places. It favors fairly high diversity sites, such as mesic swales/dips in pine sandhills, drier parts of pine flatwoods, and various sandy openings. As mentioned above, it does well in recently burned sites but long-time fire suppression tends to eliminate the species.
See also Habitat Account for Loammy, Fire-maintained Herb and Shrublands
PhenologyBlooms from May to July, and fruits from July to September.
IdentificationThis is a rather odd-looking plant that should be easily identifiable just by its vegetative parts, flowers not necessary to identify it. It is a rather sparsely branched herb, growing to about 1-1.5 feet tall, with all branches strongly ascending and with appressed hairs over most of the plant. The leaves are simple (not broken into leaflets like in most legumes), narrowly elliptic to linear, about 1-2 inches long but barely 1/5-inch wide, being smaller in the upper part of the plant. What makes the plant unusual is that the leaf stipules are sharply v-shaped and pointed upward, such that the stem and branches show downward-pointing "arrowheads"! No other plant shows such odd looking green "arrowheads" along the branches. The flowers are in short and few-flowered racemes at the tips of the branches, with each flower having yellow petals but only about 1/3-inch long. The pods are fairly large for the size of the plant, being about 1 inch long and broadly cylindrical; as the stalks of the pods are long and slender, the pods tend to dangle or droop. Though it has been seen in nearly all southern, central, and upper Coastal Plain counties, this might not be a species you will see on one or two walks in Longleaf Pine sandhills habitats, as it seems to have declined in recent decades. You should look in well-managed sites for it, such as in the Sandhills Game Land.
Taxonomic CommentsNone

Other Common Name(s)Coastal Plain Rattlebox
State RankS4
Global RankG5
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