Common name: Green bird flower

Family: FABACEAE

Crotalaria cunninghamii flower closeup. Photo: D. Blumer.View image slideshow

Origin of Scientific Name

Crotalaria – (Greek) from crotalon – rattle, castanet – referring to the way the seeds rattle in the pod when shaken.

cunninghamii – after Allan Cunningham (1791–1839), a botanical collector in Australia between 1816 and 1839.

Description

Crotalaria cunninghamii is a short-lived, upright shrub that is widely distributed throughout the northern half of Western Australia, from the coast through to the deserts, predominantly on drainage lines and sand dunes.

This species grows up to four metres high with large oval-shaped, velvety grey-green leaves and branches. But its most fascinating feature is its mass of large, vivid green pea flowers that are finely striped with purplish-brown 'veins'. Flowers are displayed in terminal clusters, with each individual closely resembling a bird that is attached by its 'beak' (the calyx) to the stem, hence its common name.

The green bird flower generally blooms from January to April in Perth or longer in its natural habitat, followed by velvety, club-shaped seed pods about four to five cm in length.

C. cunninghamii is a bird-attracting plant ideal for low screening and borders.

Horticultural tips

  • Easily propagated from seed pre-treated in boiling water and sown in October, or from cuttings.
  • Although naturally a warm climate species, it will grow in cooler areas but is best grown over the late spring, summer and autumn months.
  • Prefers a sunny position in well-drained sandy soils with native slow-release fertiliser.
  • Drought hardy, but does not tolerate frosts.
  • Vulnerable to moulds and rotting during winter; however, a spring pruning and an additional application of native slow-release fertiliser will assist with reshooting for the warm season and keep its compact shape.

For more horticultural tips view our Plant Notes section.

View in Kings Park

Visit Kings Park and Botanic Garden to see Crotalaria cunninghamii in the Kimberley garden beds near the Two Rivers lookout and boab trees (refer to map).

Want more information?

Refer to the profile for this plant on the Department of Biodiversity, Conservation and Attractions' FloraBase online herbarium.

Green bird flower habit. Photo: D. Blumer. Crotalaria cunninghamii. Photo: D. Blumer. C. cunninghamii is a bird-attracting plant ideal for low screening and borders. Photo: D. Blumer.

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Sections of the Western Australian Botanic Garden near Lovekin Drive and Forrest Drive will be closed from Monday 2 November to Friday 13 November 2020 due to essential tree works.

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