Crotalaria paulina is a shrub growing 1 - 3 metres tall.
The plant is grown as a green manure and cover crop amongst cultivated crops. The plant has been recommended as a possible ornamental for tropical and subtropical zones.
No specific mention of toxicity has been seen for this species, but many members of this genus are known to contain pyrrolizidine alkaloids, the most potent of which in this genus are monocrotaline, retrorsine and retronecine[
]. These alkaloids have a cumulative effect upon the body and, unless concentrations in a plant are high, occasional consumption is generally completely safe. Pyrrolizidine alkaloids are derived from amino acids including ornithine. Many of these alkaloids have pronounced hepatic toxicity, but the lungs and other organs may be affected as well. Mutagenic and carcinogenic activities of pyrrolizidine alkaloids have also been reported[
S. America - Brazil, Colombia
Dry localities, often in poor soils[
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Species in this genus generally thrive in a wide range of well-drained soils and a sunny position[
This species has a symbiotic relationship with certain soil bacteria; these bacteria form nodules on the roots and fix atmospheric nitrogen. Some of this nitrogen is utilized by the growing plant but some can also be used by other plants growing nearby[
The plant covers the soil effectively, has an extensive root system, vigorous growth, fixes atmospheric nitrogen and produces a high mass of plant material. It is used as a green manure in Africa[
]. In Brazil it is grown as a companion crop with corn (Zea mays) and cassava (Manihot esculenta). It is also grown between perennial crops such as citrus and coffee[
Seed - stored seed has a hard seedcoat and can benefit from scarification before sowing in order to speed up and improve germination[
]. This can usually be done by pouring a small amount of nearly boiling water on the seeds (being careful not to cook them!) and then soaking them for 12 - 24 hours in warm water. By this time they should have imbibed moisture and swollen - if they have not, then carefully make a nick in the seedcoat (being careful not to damage the embryo) and soak for a further 12 hours before sowing.
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