Invasive Species Compendium

Detailed coverage of invasive species threatening livelihoods and the environment worldwide


Crotalaria maypurensis
(rattlebox weed)



Crotalaria maypurensis (rattlebox weed)


  • Last modified
  • 13 November 2018
  • Datasheet Type(s)
  • Invasive Species
  • Preferred Scientific Name
  • Crotalaria maypurensis
  • Preferred Common Name
  • rattlebox weed
  • Taxonomic Tree
  • Domain: Eukaryota
  •   Kingdom: Plantae
  •     Phylum: Spermatophyta
  •       Subphylum: Angiospermae
  •         Class: Dicotyledonae
  • Summary of Invasiveness
  • C. maypurensis is a shrub or herb listed as invasive in Cuba by Oviedo Prieto et al. (2012), although other databases regard it as native on this island (

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Preferred Scientific Name

  • Crotalaria maypurensis Kunth

Preferred Common Name

  • rattlebox weed

Other Scientific Names

  • Crotalaria acapulcensis Hook. & Arn.
  • Crotalaria anagyroides var. pauciflora Griseb
  • Crotalaria lectophylla Benth.
  • Crotalaria leptophylla Benth.
  • Crotalaria maypurensis var. depauperata (Benth.) Windler & S.G.Skinner
  • Crotalaria maypurensis var. maypurensis

International Common Names

  • English: rattlebox
  • Spanish: chipilin; chipilin de conejo; chipilin de culebra; crotalaria
  • Portuguese: guizo-de-cascavel; xique-xique

Local Common Names

  • Argentina: cumanda
  • Brazil: guizo-de-cascavel; xique-xique
  • Guatemala: chipilin; chipilin de conejo; chipilin de culebra
  • Venezuela: generala

Summary of Invasiveness

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C. maypurensis is a shrub or herb listed as invasive in Cuba by Oviedo Prieto et al. (2012), although other databases regard it as native on this island (Acevedo-Rodríguez and Strong, 2012; USDA-ARS, 2015). Within its native distribution range in tropical America, this species is associated with disturbed vegetation and grows in open ground, secondary forests and riparian sites (Gómez-Sosa, 2000 ; Avendaño, 2011).

Taxonomic Tree

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  • Domain: Eukaryota
  •     Kingdom: Plantae
  •         Phylum: Spermatophyta
  •             Subphylum: Angiospermae
  •                 Class: Dicotyledonae
  •                     Order: Fabales
  •                         Family: Fabaceae
  •                             Subfamily: Faboideae
  •                                 Genus: Crotalaria
  •                                     Species: Crotalaria maypurensis

Notes on Taxonomy and Nomenclature

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Fabaceae is one of the most diverse families of flowering plants. Species in the subfamiliy Papilionoideae (also known as Faboideae) are trees, shrubs, and herbs that may be easily recognized by their classical pea-shaped flowers and the frequent occurrence of root nodulation (Stevens, 2012).

The genus Crotalaria includes around 720 species especially distributed in the Southern Hemisphere throughout tropical regions and extending into the subtropics (Roux et al., 2013; Flora of China Editorial Committee, 2015). The name Crotalaria derives from the Greek krotalos for rattle, refering to the sound dried pods make when shaken: the common name for the genus, rattlebox or rattlepod, also refers to the rattling of seeds in the pods after drying.

 A recent molecular systematic study based on nuclear internal transcribed spacer and the plastid markers matK, psbA-trnH and rbcLa showed that Crotalaria is monophyletic (Roux et al., 2013). Crotalaria species are easily recognized by the following combination of characters (Wyk, 2005):

  • rostrate keel

  • highly inflated fruit

  • hairy style

  • 5 + 5 anther configuration

  • paired callosities on the standard petal

  • presence of macrocyclic pyrrolizidine alkaloids


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Shrub or suffrutescent herb to 1.5 m tall, stem striate, strigulose. Leaves trifoliolate, the terminal leaflets narrowly elliptic to elliptic, the apex acute, acuminate or mucronulate, the base cuneate, 4.5-5.5 cm long, 1.1-1.5 cm broad, the margins entire, above glabrous, beneath sparsely strigulose, the veins 8-10 on each side of the mid-vein, the lateral leaflets similar, but slightly smaller; petiole 3-4 cm long, the stipules absent. Inflorescences terminal, lax racemes bearing up to 20 flowers; bracts linear triangular, 1-2 mm long, caducous; pedicels 5-6 mm long; bracteoles linear, 1 mm long, strigulose, located at the base of the calyx tube, caducous. Flowers yellow, 15-18 mm long; calyx 8-9 mm long, the tube truncate, the lobes about 1.5 times as long as the tube, strigulose; corolla yellow or tinged with violet, 15-18 mm long, the standard 13-14.5 mm long, 14.0-15.5 mm broad, retuse, the wings 13-14 mm long, the claws 2-3 mm long, oblong obovate, oblique, the keel 14-15 mm long, the non-twisted beak prolonged; stamens dimorphic, the long anthers 3.3-3.5 mm long, the short anthers 0.7-0.8 mm long; style with a pubescent stigma, curved geniculate, 9.5-12.0 mm long. Legume inflated, 2.5-3.1 cm long, strigulose; seeds approximately 20, brown, oblique, 3 mm long (Flora of Panama, 2015).


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C. maypurensis is native to tropical America, from Mexico to South America (i.e., Colombia, Peru, Brazil and Paraguay (Avendaño, 2011; USDA-ARS, 2015). The native status of this species in Cuba is uncertain and it listed as both native (Acevedo-Rodríguez and Strong, 2012; USDA-ARS, 2015) and introduced and invasive on this island (Oviedo et al., 2012).

Distribution Table

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The distribution in this summary table is based on all the information available. When several references are cited, they may give conflicting information on the status. Further details may be available for individual references in the Distribution Table Details section which can be selected by going to Generate Report.

Continent/Country/RegionDistributionLast ReportedOriginFirst ReportedInvasiveReferenceNotes

North America

MexicoPresentNativeAvendaño, 2011

Central America and Caribbean

BelizePresentNativeUSDA-ARS, 2015
Costa RicaPresentIntroduced Invasive USDA-ARS, 2015
CubaPresentIntroduced Invasive Acevedo-Rodríguez and Strong, 2012; Oviedo et al., 2012
GuatemalaPresentNativeUSDA-ARS, 2015
HondurasPresentNativeUSDA-ARS, 2015
NicaraguaPresentNativeUSDA-ARS, 2015
PanamaPresentNativeUSDA-ARS, 2015

South America

ArgentinaPresentNativeGómez-Sosa, 2000Corrientes, Jujuy, Salta
BoliviaPresentNativeJørgensen et al., 2015
-AcrePresentNativeFlores, 2015
-BahiaPresentNativeFlores, 2015
-CearaPresentNativeFlores, 2015
-Distrito FederalPresentNativeFlores, 2015
-GoiasPresentNativeFlores, 2015
-MaranhaoPresentNativeFlores, 2015
-Mato GrossoPresentNativeFlores, 2015
-Mato Grosso do SulPresentNativeFlores, 2015
-Minas GeraisPresentNativeFlores, 2015
-ParaPresentNativeFlores, 2015
-ParanaPresentNativeFlores, 2015
-PiauiPresentNativeFlores, 2015
-Rio de JaneiroPresentNativeFlores, 2015
-RondoniaPresentNativeFlores, 2015
-RoraimaPresentNativeFlores, 2015
-Sao PauloPresentNativeFlores, 2015
-TocantinsPresentNativeFlores, 2015
ColombiaPresentNativeUSDA-ARS, 2015
French GuianaPresentNativeUSDA-ARS, 2015
GuyanaPresentNativeFunk et al., 2007
ParaguayPresentNativeUSDA-ARS, 2015Alto Paraguay
PeruPresentNativeUSDA-ARS, 2015
SurinamePresentNativeUSDA-ARS, 2015
VenezuelaPresentNativeMissouri Botanical Garden, 2015

History of Introduction and Spread

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At present, C. maypurensis is listed as introduced and invasive only in Cuba (Oviedo et al., 2012), although other databases regard the species as native here. On this island, C. maypurensis appears in a herbarium collection made in Pinar del Rio in 1911 (US National Herbarium).

Risk of Introduction

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Considering the high invasive potential of some other Crotalaria species such as C. retusa and C. spectabilis, and given that C. maypurensis is listed as invasive in Cuba (Oviedo et al., 2012), the risk of introduction of C. maypurensis beyond its current distribution is therefore moderate to high.


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C. maypurensis inhabits dry and moist thickets, open forests, savannas, open hillsides, riparian forests, pine-oak forests, and sandbars along streams (Standley and Steyermark, 1946). In Brazil, it occurs in rainforests, savannas, Atlantic rainforests, and swamps in the Pantanal area (Flores, 2015).

Habitat List

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Terrestrial – ManagedCultivated / agricultural land Present, no further details Harmful (pest or invasive)
Cultivated / agricultural land Present, no further details Natural
Cultivated / agricultural land Present, no further details Productive/non-natural
Disturbed areas Present, no further details Harmful (pest or invasive)
Disturbed areas Present, no further details Natural
Disturbed areas Present, no further details Productive/non-natural
Rail / roadsides Present, no further details Harmful (pest or invasive)
Rail / roadsides Present, no further details Natural
Rail / roadsides Present, no further details Productive/non-natural
Terrestrial ‑ Natural / Semi-naturalNatural grasslands Present, no further details Harmful (pest or invasive)
Natural grasslands Present, no further details Natural
Natural grasslands Present, no further details Productive/non-natural
Scrub / shrublands Present, no further details Harmful (pest or invasive)
Scrub / shrublands Present, no further details Natural
Scrub / shrublands Present, no further details Productive/non-natural

Biology and Ecology

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The chromosome number reported for C. maypurensis is 2n = 16 (Flores, 2006).

Reproductive Biology

Flowers of Crotalaria species are visited by bees and other insects and are extensively cross-pollinated. In these species self-pollination may take place after the stigmatic surface is stimulated by insects or other mechanism (Francis, 2004; Maddox et al., 2011; PROTA, 2015).


C. maypurensis is an annual or biennial fast-growing legume species (Standley and Steyermark, 1946).

Environmental Requirements

C. maypurensis grows best in areas from sea level to 2100 m altitude. It grows in both dry and moist habitats on soils with pH ranging from 4.8 to 8.0 (Standley and Steyermark, 1946; Avendaño, 2011; Flora of Panama, 2015).


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Am - Tropical monsoon climate Preferred Tropical monsoon climate ( < 60mm precipitation driest month but > (100 - [total annual precipitation(mm}/25]))
As - Tropical savanna climate with dry summer Preferred < 60mm precipitation driest month (in summer) and < (100 - [total annual precipitation{mm}/25])
Aw - Tropical wet and dry savanna climate Preferred < 60mm precipitation driest month (in winter) and < (100 - [total annual precipitation{mm}/25])

Air Temperature

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Parameter Lower limit Upper limit
Mean annual temperature (ºC) 18 30


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ParameterLower limitUpper limitDescription
Mean annual rainfall8002000mm; lower/upper limits

Means of Movement and Dispersal

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C. maypurensis spreads by seeds. Seeds are ejected short distances from the pods which twist upon drying. Additionally, seeds can be dispersed as contaminants on soil, mud or adhering to vehicles or animals (i.e., livestock; Standley and Steyermark, 1946; Bernal, 1986; Avendaño, 2011; Flora of Panama, 2015).

Impact Summary

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Economic/livelihood Positive and negative
Environment (generally) Positive and negative

Economic Impact

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Like other Crotalaria species, C. maypurensis contains pyrrolizidine alkaloids causing chronic liver cirrhosis in livestock (Avendaño, 2011; USDA-ARS, 2015).

Environmental Impact

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C. maypurensis has become invasive in Cuba. On this island this species grows as a weed along roadsides, waste grounds, and in disturbed forests (Oviedo et al., 2012). As with many other Crotalaria species, C. maypurensis is a nitrogen-fixing species and therefore it has the potential to alter chemical soil conditions, nutrient cycling and trophic levels in invaded ecosystems with negative effects on native vegetation (Levine et al., 2003).

Risk and Impact Factors

Top of page Invasiveness
  • Proved invasive outside its native range
  • Has a broad native range
  • Abundant in its native range
  • Highly adaptable to different environments
  • Is a habitat generalist
  • Tolerates, or benefits from, cultivation, browsing pressure, mutilation, fire etc
  • Pioneering in disturbed areas
  • Highly mobile locally
  • Benefits from human association (i.e. it is a human commensal)
  • Long lived
  • Fast growing
  • Gregarious
Impact outcomes
  • Altered trophic level
  • Ecosystem change/ habitat alteration
  • Modification of nutrient regime
  • Modification of successional patterns
  • Monoculture formation
  • Reduced native biodiversity
  • Threat to/ loss of native species
Impact mechanisms
  • Competition - monopolizing resources
  • Competition - smothering
  • Rapid growth
Likelihood of entry/control
  • Highly likely to be transported internationally accidentally
  • Highly likely to be transported internationally deliberately
  • Difficult to identify/detect as a commodity contaminant


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In Mexico, leaves are used as an aromatic herb for cooking (Avendaño, 2011).

Prevention and Control

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Due to the variable regulations around (de)registration of pesticides, your national list of registered pesticides or relevant authority should be consulted to determine which products are legally allowed for use in your country when considering chemical control. Pesticides should always be used in a lawful manner, consistent with the product's label.

There are no specific herbicides recommended for the control of C. maypurenesis. However, herbicides such are diuron, dicamba, hexazinone, triclopyr, flumioxazin, paraquat, glyphosate, and 2,4-D have been used for the control of related species such as C. spectabilis and C. retusa (Maddox et al., 2011).


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Acevedo-Rodríguez P, Strong MT, 2012. Catalogue of the Seed Plants of the West Indies. Smithsonian Contributions to Botany, 98:1192 pp. Washington DC, USA: Smithsonian Institution.

Avendaño N, 2011. Revisión taxonómica del género Crotalaria L.( Faboideae-Crotalarieae) en Venezuela., Acta Botanica Venezuelica, 34:13-78

Bernal H, 1986. Crotalaria. In: Pinto P, Ruiz P, Eds. Flora de Colombia. Monografía 4, pp. 1-103. Colombia, Colciencias, Bogotá: Universidad Nacional de Colombia, Fondo Colombiano de Investigaciones Científicas y Proyectos Especiales

Flora of China Editorial Committee, 2015. Flora of China. St. Louis, Missouri and Cambridge, Massachusetts, USA: Missouri Botanical Garden and Harvard University Herbaria.

Flora of Panama, 2015. Flora of Panama (WFO), Tropicos website. St. Louis, MO and Cambridge, MA, USA: Missouri Botanical Garden and Harvard University Herbaria.

Flores AS, 2006. Chromosome numbers in Brazilian species of Crotalaria (Leguminosae, Papilionoideae) and their taxonomic significance., Botanical Journal of the Linnean Society, 151:271-277

Flores AS, 2015. Crotalaria in Lista de Espécies da Flora do Brasil. Brazil: Jardim Botânico do Rio de Janeiro.

Francis JK, 2004. Wildland shrubs of the United States and its territories: thamnic descriptions: volume 1. Gen. Tech. Rep. IITF-GTR-26, 1. San Juan, Puerto Rico: US Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, International Institute of Tropical Forestry, and Fort Collins, CO: US Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Rocky Mountain Research Station, 830 pp.

Funk V, Hollowell T, Berry P, Kelloff C, Alexander SN, 2007. Checklist of the plants of the Guiana Shield (Venezuela: Amazonas, Bolivar, Delta Amacuro; Guyana, Surinam, French Guiana). Contributions from the United States National Herbarium, 584 pp.

Gómez-Sosa E, 2000. Las especies argentinas de Crotalaria (Leguminosae-Crotalarieae): novedades, descripciones y clave, Gayana Botánica, 57:67-87

Jørgensen PM, Nee MH, Beck SG, 2015. Catalago de Plantas Vasculares de Bolivia, Monographs in Systematic Botany from the Missouri Botanical Garden, 127:1–1744

Levine JM, Vila M, D’Antonio CM, Dukes JS, Grigulis K, Lavorel S, 2003. Mechanisms underlying the impacts of exotic plant invasions., Proceedings of the Royal Society of London. Series B: Biological Sciences, 270:775-781

Maddox V, Westbrools R, Byrd JD, 2011. Showy rattlebox. Online resources Mississippi State University, Geosystems Research Institute.

Missouri Botanical Garden, 2015. Tropicos database. St. Louis, Missouri, USA: Missouri Botanical Garden.

Oviedo Prieto R, Herrera Oliver P, Caluff MG, et al., 2012. National list of invasive and potentially invasive plants in the Republic of Cuba - 2011. (Lista nacional de especies de plantas invasoras y potencialmente invasoras en la República de Cuba - 2011). Bissea: Boletín sobre Conservación de Plantas del Jardín Botánico Nacional de Cuba, 6(Special Issue 1):22-96.

PROTA, 2015. PROTA4U web database. Wageningen, Netherlands: Plant Resources of Tropical Africa.

Roux MM le, Boatwright JS, Wyk BE van, 2013. A global infrageneric classification system for the genus Crotalaria (Leguminosae) based on molecular and morphological evidence, Taxon, 62:957-971

Standley PC, Steyermark JA, 1946. Leguminosae. Flora of Guatemala. Fieldiana Botany, 24(5): 1–368. Field Mus. Publ. No. 578

Stevens PF, 2012. Angiosperm Phylogeny Website.

USDA-ARS, 2015. Germplasm Resources Information Network (GRIN). Online Database. National Germplasm Resources Laboratory, Beltsville, USA.

Wyk BE van, 2005. Tribe Crotalarieae. In: Lewis G, Schrire B, Mackinder B, Lock M, eds. Legumes of the World. Kew: Royal Botanic Gardens, pp. 273–281

Links to Websites

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International Legume Database & Information


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03/05/16 Original text by:

Julissa Rojas-Sandoval, Department of Botany-Smithsonian NMNH, Washington DC, USA

Distribution Maps

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