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There is one species, however, that uses the plant's toxicity to its advantage, and that's the rattlebox moth, Uthetheisa ornatrix. Much like monarch butterflies use milkweeds to produce both color and poison, the rattlebox moth uses members of the crotalaria family. It's one of the few Florida moths that are showy.All rattlebox species have two things in common: yellow flowers and a pea-pod fruit that rattles when ripe. Smooth rattlebox is an upright plant with leaflets of three, and produces a large, dense spike of showy flowers at the end of the stem. The plant itself can grow to nine feet tall. By contrast, Florida natives low rattlebox and rabbit bells are ground-huggers, and their flowers are less showy.
Smooth rattlebox was first noticed at Jonathan Dickenson State Park in 1975. In 1992, a survey found it in a few disturbed sites. By 2010, it had taken over 60 percent of the cover along a 4.3-mile stretch of road within the park.The flowers are pollinated primarily by long-tongued bees, including bumblebees (Bombus spp.), Carder bees (Anthidium spp.), Cuckoo bees (Coelioxys spp.), and large Leaf-Cutting bees (Megachile spp.). Sometimes the flowers are visited by small butterflies or skippers, but they are less effective at cross-pollination. The caterpillars of Utetheisa bella (Bella Moth) feed on the foliage of Rattlebox. In addition, there have been reports of the butterfly caterpillars of Callophrys irus (Frosted Elfin) and the skipper caterpillars of Erynnis baptisiae (Wild Indigo Duskywing) feeding on the foliage. The foliage of Rattlebox is toxic to herbivorous mammals, particularly horses, and it is generally avoided by them as a food source. However, sometimes White-Tailed Deer chomp off the tops of individual plants.
This is the only Crotalaria sp. (Rattlebox) in Illinois. There are other species in this genus that are located in the southern and western states; they are often perennials with more showy flowers. Rattlebox is easy to identify when its inflated seedpods are present; they are large in size in relation to the rest of the plant and tend to stand out. There are other legumes that produce inflated seedpods (e.g., Baptisia spp.), but they usually have compound leaves.Liquid glyphosate formulations have been effective on rattlebox above the water line, but ineffective on plants in the water. They are broad spectrum, systemic herbicides. Systemic herbicides are absorbed and move within the plant to the site of action. Systemic herbicides tend to act more slowly than contact herbicides. An aquatically registered surfactant (see the label) will have to be added to the glyphosate solution for good results. (Source: aquaplant.tamu.edu)