Crotalaria is a large genus of over 500 species; there are about 30 native to Australia and a number of exotic species have become naturalised. They are generally small to medium shrubs or herbaceous species and are known as “rattlepods” because the seeds are loose in the pods. Some species contain toxins which accumulate in the liver and produce long-term damage which is often fatal.
Crotalaria cunninghamii is a shrub to about 3 metres tall with hairy branches and foliage. The leaves are oval shaped and about 30 mm long. The large, greenish pea flowers occur in winter and spring on long spikes at the ends of the branches. The flowers are streaked with fine, black lines. The seed pods are up to 40 mm long.
The sap from the leaves of this species were used by aborigines to treat eye infections.
Green bird flower is reasonably popular in cultivation in warm areas. It requires well drained soils and prefers a position in full sun. It is not suited to cold climates and is damaged by frost.
Propagation is from seed, which germinates readily after treatment in boiling water, or from cuttings.
Photo: Keith Townsend