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Crotalaria lachnophora Hochst. ex A.Rich

Tent. fl. abyss. 1: 151 (1847).
Papilionaceae (Leguminosae - Papilionoideae, Fabaceae)
Chromosome number
n = 8
Vernacular names
Crotalaire à toison (Fr).
Origin and geographic distribution
Crotalaria lachnophora is widespread in tropical Africa, from Senegal east to Ethiopia and south to Angola and Zimbabwe. It has recently been introduced into Madagascar from Rwanda.
The seeds of Crotalaria lachnophora are considered edible in DR Congo. Crotalaria lachnophora is promoted in Rwanda as a green manure crop in rotation systems, together with pigeon pea (Cajanus cajan (L.) Millsp.) and Tephrosia vogelii Hook.f. In Madagascar it is being used experimentally as a cover crop for fallow land and in contour hedges. In Guatemala it has been recommended as a shade plant for coffee plantations and for soil conservation. Leaf sap is dropped into the ear or drunk to treat otitis.
Various alkaloids and non-protein amino acids (γ-glutamyltyrosine, isowillardiine, 2-piperudinecarboxylic acid) have been detected in Crotalaria lachnophora seeds and may cause toxicity. However, amino acids known to be toxic to mammals and birds and present in many Crotalaria species were not detected in Crotalaria lachnophora.
Perennial herb or shrub up to 3 m tall, much-branched above; branches densely hairy. Leaves alternate, 3-foliolate; stipules oblong-falcate, 1–2.5 cm × 2–8 mm, caudate; petiole 0. 5–3.5(–5) cm long; petiolules 1–2.5 mm long; leaflets oblanceolate to obovate, 3–7.5(–10) cm × 0.5–3.5 cm, base cuneate, apex acute to rounded, densely appressed pubescent beneath. Inflorescence a terminal, lax raceme 10–30 cm long, few–many-flowered. Flowers bisexual, papilionaceous; pedicel 5–11 mm long; calyx 11–15(–18) mm long, spreading hairy, lobes twice as long as the tube; corolla yellow, fading to orange-red, standard circular, c. 20 mm × 20–30 mm, wings broadly oblong, 20–30 mm × 10–12 mm, keel abruptly rounded in lower half, (13–)20–24 (–26) mm × 11 mm, with a rather short, blunt, slightly incurved beak; stamens 10, all joined; ovary superior, 1-celled, style 20–23 mm long. Fruit a broadly cylindrical pod, 2–4.5 cm × 1–2 cm, hairy, 16–18-seeded. Seeds oblong to kidney-shaped, 4.5–5 mm long, granulate, orange-yellow.
Crotalaria comprises about 600 species distributed throughout the tropics and subtropics, with about 500 species in tropical Africa. Crotalaria lachnophora belongs to section Chrysocalycinae, subsection Stipulosae.
Crotalaria lachnophora occurs in grassland and woodland, sometimes in thorn scrub; it is also found on roadsides and in disturbed or cultivated locations, at 900–2200 m altitude. In Nigeria it occurs in regions with an average annual rainfall of 500–1300 mm, on acidic, ferruginous soils.
Genetic resources and breeding
One accession of Crotalaria lachnophora from Kenya is kept in the National Genebank of Kenya, Crop Plant Genetic Resources Centre, KARI, Kikuyu. Crotalaria lachnophora is widely distributed and not threatened by genetic erosion.
Although the seeds of Crotalaria lachnophora are considered edible, possibly toxic compounds have been detected in the seeds. More information is needed on the toxicity of the seeds and appropriate processing methods to eliminate the toxic compounds. Crotalaria lachnophora has some potential as a green manure.
Major references
• Beentje, H.J., 1994. Kenya trees, shrubs and lianas. National Museums of Kenya, Nairobi, Kenya. 722 pp.
• Burkill, H.M., 1995. The useful plants of West Tropical Africa. 2nd Edition. Volume 3, Families J–L. Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, Richmond, United Kingdom. 857 pp.
• Gillett, J.B., Polhill, R.M., Verdcourt, B., Schubert, B.G., Milne-Redhead, E., & Brummitt, R.K., 1971. Leguminosae (Parts 3–4), subfamily Papilionoideae (1–2). In: Milne-Redhead, E. & Polhill, R.M. (Editors). Flora of Tropical East Africa. Crown Agents for Oversea Governments and Administrations, London, United Kingdom. 1108 pp.
• Pilbeam, D.J. & Bell, E.A., 1979. Free amino acids in Crotalaria seeds. Phytochemistry 18: 973–985.
• Polhill, R.M., 1982. Crotalaria in Africa and Madagascar. A.A. Balkema, Rotterdam, Netherlands. 389 pp.
Other references
• Berhaut, J., 1976. Flore illustrée du Sénégal. Dicotylédones. Volume 5. Légumineuses Papilionacées. Gouvernement du Sénégal, Ministère du Développement Rural et de l’Hydraulique, Direction des Eaux et Forêts, Dakar, Senegal. 658 pp.
• du Puy, D.J., Labat, J.N., Rabevohitra, R., Villiers, J.-F., Bosser, J. & Moat, J., 2002. The Leguminosae of Madagascar. Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, Richmond, United Kingdom. 750 pp.
• Hepper, F.N., 1958. Papilionaceae. In: Keay, R.W.J. (Editor). Flora of West Tropical Africa. Volume 1, part 2. 2nd Edition. Crown Agents for Oversea Governments and Administrations, London, United Kingdom. pp. 505–587.
• Husaini, S.W.H. & Gill, L.S., 1985. Cytomorphological studies of the genus Crotalaria L. (Leguminosae) from Nigeria. Boletim da Sociedade Broteriana, Série 2, 58(2): 149–172.
• ILDIS, 2005. World database of Legumes, Version 9,00. International Legume Database & Information Service. [Internet] Accessed June 2005.
• Moller, K., 1990. Manuel des techniques agroforestières pour la conservation et amélioration biologique des sols: la jachère. Centre FAFIALA, Antananarivo, Madagascar. 15 pp.
• Neuwinger, H.D., 2000. African traditional medicine: a dictionary of plant use and applications. Medpharm Scientific, Stuttgart, Germany. 589 pp.
• Thulin, M., 1989. Fabaceae (Leguminosae). In: Hedberg, I. & Edwards, S. (Editors). Flora of Ethiopia. Volume 3. Pittosporaceae to Araliaceae. The National Herbarium, Addis Ababa University, Addis Ababa, Ethiopia and Department of Systematic Botany, Uppsala University, Uppsala, Sweden. pp. 49–251.
• Toussaint, L., Wilczek, R., Gillett, J.B. & Boutique, R., 1953. Papilionaceae (première partie). In: Robyns, W., Staner, P., Demaret, F., Germain, R., Gilbert, G., Hauman, L., Homès, M., Jurion, F., Lebrun, J., Vanden Abeele, M. & Boutique, R. (Editors). Flore du Congo belge et du Ruanda-Urundi. Spermatophytes. Volume 4. Institut National pour l’Étude Agronomique du Congo belge, Brussels, Belgium. 314 pp.
• Wiedenroth, E.-M., 1991. Florenschutz durch Florennutzung in Rwanda. Gleditschia 19(2): 379–384.
M. Brink
PROTA Network Office Europe, Wageningen University, P.O. Box 341, 6700 AH Wageningen, Netherlands

M. Brink
PROTA Network Office Europe, Wageningen University, P.O. Box 341, 6700 AH Wageningen, Netherlands
G. Belay
Ethiopian Agricultural Research Organization, Debre Zeit Center, P.O. Box 32, Debre Zeit, Ethiopia
Associate editors
J.M.J. de Wet
Department of Crop Sciences, Urbana-Champaign, Turner Hall, 1102 South Goodwin Avenue, Urbana, IL 61801, United States
O.T. Edje
Faculty of Agriculture, University of Swaziland, P.O. Luyengo, Luyengo, Swaziland
E. Westphal
Ritzema Bosweg 13, 6706 BB Wageningen, Netherlands
General editors
R.H.M.J. Lemmens
PROTA Network Office Europe, Wageningen University, P.O. Box 341, 6700 AH Wageningen, Netherlands
L.P.A. Oyen
PROTA Network Office Europe, Wageningen University, P.O. Box 341, 6700 AH Wageningen, Netherlands
Photo editor
A. de Ruijter
PROTA Network Office Europe, Wageningen University, P.O. Box 341, 6700 AH Wageningen, Netherlands

Correct citation of this article:
Brink, M., 2006. Crotalaria lachnophora Hochst. ex A.Rich In: Brink, M. & Belay, G. (Editors). PROTA 1: Cereals and pulses/Céréales et légumes secs. [CD-Rom]. PROTA, Wageningen, Netherlands.