The phylogenetic and taxonomic significance of morphological and anatomical trends in fruits of tribe Crotalarieae has been evaluated, with emphasis on the genus Crotalaria and its seemingly distinctive, inflated and balloon-shaped pods. In addition to the normal explosive dehiscence as a means of dispersal, several genera (including Crotalaria) show independent evolution of modifications apparently adapted for dispersal by wind, water and gravity. Transverse sections were made of mature pods of 142 species from the 12 currently recognized genera of Crotalarieae. The taxa differ in the orientation of the fibres (related to dehiscence or non-dehiscence), the overall thickness of the fruit wall, the relative proportions of the pericarp layers, the degree of lignification and the presence or absence of trichomes. Three basic pericarp types can be distinguished: type I, with one, two or three zones of various numbers of cell layers of fibres (almost all genera); type II, with a single cell layer of fibres (only in Rothia, Robynsiophyton, Lebeckia and Lotononis sections Listia and Leobordea); and type III, with one zone of several cell layers of gelatinous fibres and multicellular trichomes associated with the endocarp (only in some species of Calobota and Wiborgiella). Considerable variation was encountered in the tribe, but Crotalaria appears to be rather uniform, with type I predominating. © 2010 The Linnean Society of London, Botanical Journal of the Linnean Society, 2011, 165, 84–106.