Showy Rattlebox


Showy Rattlebox, Cortalaria spectabilis, is found in disturbed sites in almost every county in the State.  This non-native species is a herbaceous annual that can grow to a height of six feet. The plant begins with an erect main stem that supports several branching secondary stems.  Leaves are arranged alternately on the stems. Leaf shape is oblanceolate which is the reverse of a lanceolate shape. The narrowest part of the leaf is attached to the stem and the widest part is at the tip. Upper part of the leaf is smooth while underneath is covered in dense hairs.

As a member of the Fabaceae, Bean, family, we again see the Bean flower. The bright yellow flower  that resembles a butterfly.    Flowers are found in clusters on terminal spikes at the tip of each stem.  Flowers can be as much is one inch in diameter. After pollination, fruit appears in two inch long greenish pods with seeds that rattle in the wind.

Unfortunately, Showy Rattlebox does not have a good reputation.  The reason being that all parts of this plant is seriously toxic.  It has been known to poison livestock.  This species does occasionally grow on the island. It can be harmful to dogs and children who may want to play with the pods. If it is observed, it should pulled up forthwith and deposited in a black plastic bag. Wear gloves.

The specimen in the picture was found in the Estero Bay Buffer Preserve.