Desmodium glabellum

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Common Names: Ticktrefoil [1]; Smooth Beggarlice [2]; tall tick-trefoil[3]

Desmodium glabellum
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Plantae
Division: Magnoliophyta - Flowering plants
Class: Magnoliopsida - Dicots
Order: Fabales
Family: Fabaceae
Genus: Desmodium
Species: D. glabellum
Binomial name
Desmodium glabellum
Natural range of Desmodium glabellum from USDA NRCS Plants Database.

Taxonomic Notes

Synonyms: none[3]

Varieties: none[3]


D. glabellum is a perennial forb/herb of the Fabaceae family native to North America. [1] It reaches heights between 2 1/2 to 5 feet at maturity. Flowers are pink or purple, irregularly shaped, and have no aroma; when spent, flowers turn blue. Leaves alternate, egg-shaped with little to no point, and composed of 3 entire leaflets. Where the leaf is attached to the stem, there is either little or no stipule. Fruit has hooked hairs for animal translocation.[4]


The native distribution of D. glabellum is along the United States east coast, west to Texas, Oklahoma, and Kansas. [1] In Florida, its distribution is constricted to the northern portion of the state.[5]



It can be found in its native distribution in woodland borders, fields, and other disturbed areas.[6] D. glabellum prefers slightly dry to dry conditions in partial sun; it can grow on soil that contains clay-loam, loam, or other rocky materials. Other habitats include savannas, rocky upland forests, limestone glades, and various thickets.[4] As well, D. glabellum has been observed growing in hardwood floodplains and other deciduous woods, gaps in wooded swamps, limestone outcrops, wooded bluffs, sand ridges, wooded ravines, and riparian hammocks. It was mostly found on sandy soils and drying sandy loam soils.[7] This species is also an indicator species of the north Florida longleaf woodlands habitat.[5]

Associated species: Sanicula canadensis, Uniola sessiliflora, Desmodium paniculatum, Galactia sp., Elephantopus sp., Paspalum notatum, Sida rhombifolia, and Perilla sp.[7]

Desmodium glabellum is an indicator species for the North Florida Longleaf Woodlands community type as described in Carr et al. (2010).[8]


D. glabellum has been observed to flower between August and October, with peak inflorescence in September. [9] Fruit production is between August and October.[6]

Seed dispersal

D. glabellum is a member of the pea family. It's pea pods or seeds have tiny hooked hairs on the shell that make them ideal for sticking to passing fur bearing animals for dispersal.[1] This species is thought to be dispersed by translocation on animal fur or feathers. [10]

Seed bank and germination

Firm seedbed is required for germination to be successful.[4]

Fire ecology

This species has been observed in pinelands that are burned,[7] and populations of Desmodium glabellum have been known to persist through repeated annual burns.[11]


Pollinators of D. glabellum includes Bombus pensylvanica, Megachile brevis brevis, M. mendica, M. petulans, and Melissodes bimaculata bimaculata, which are bees in the Hymoptera order.[12] The primary pollinators of D. glabellum are long tongued bees.[4]

Herbivory and toxicology

Seeds from D. glabellum are eaten by birds and upland game birds, rodents, wild turkey, rabbits, groundhogs, livestock, and deer. [4]

Diseases and parasites

White mold has been observed to grow on D. glabellum. Adult Japanese beetles will feed on the plant's flowers and leaves. [4]

Conservation, cultivation, and restoration

D. glabellum has been placed on the special concern list for the state of Connecticut. [1] For management, disking and harrowing followed by cultipacking is a good method for establishing a good clean and firm seedbed for D. glabellum. As well, planting in no-till conditions can also be effective if weeds are controlled prior to planting seeds as well as managing residue. To reduce weeds, mow at a height that will not affect the D. glabellum seedlings.[4] The USDA-NRCS Rose Lake Plant Materials Center in East Lansing, Michigan has released two selected materials of D. glabellum called Alcona Germplasm Dillenius' tick-trefoil and Marion Germplasm Dillenius' tick-trefoil.[4]

Cultural use

Photo Gallery

References and notes

  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 1.4 USDA Plant Database
  2. Davis, J., J. Eric, et al. (2002). "Vascular flora of Piedmont Prairies: Evidence from several prairie remnants." Castanea 67(1): 1-12.
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 Weakley, A.S. 2020. Flora of the Southeastern United States. Edition of 20 October 2020. University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Chapel Hill, North Carolina.
  4. 4.0 4.1 4.2 4.3 4.4 4.5 4.6 4.7 Leif, J. W. (2009). Plant Fact Sheet: Dillenius' Tick-trefoil Desmodium glabellum. N.R.C.S. United States Department of Agriculture. Rose Lake Plant Materials Center, East Lansing, MI.
  5. 5.0 5.1 Carr, S. C., et al. (2010). "A Vegetation Classification of Fire-Dependent Pinelands of Florida." Castanea 75(2): 153-189.
  6. 6.0 6.1 Weakley, A. S. (2015). Flora of the Southern and Mid-Atlantic States. Chapel Hill, NC, University of North Carolina Herbarium.
  7. 7.0 7.1 7.2 Florida State University Robert K. Godfrey Herbarium database. URL: Last accessed: April 2019. Collectors: Loran C. Anderson, C. F. Baker, Wilson Baker, - Boothes, George R. Cooley, V. L. Cory, Delzie Demaree, F. S. Earle, Richard J. Eaton, Erik Harvey, R. K. Godfrey, J. M. Kane, Ed Keppner, Lisa Keppner, R. Komarek, R. Kral, Robert L. Lazor, Karen MacClendon, T. MacClendon, Ruth Parker, Sterling Parker, A. E. Radford, James D. Ray, Jr., Helen Roth, Victoria Sullivan, and Jean Wooten. States and Counties: Florida: Bay, Calhoun, Escambia, Franklin, Gadsden, Jackson, Leon, Levy, Liberty, Nassau, Santa Rosa, Taylor, Wakulla, and Walton. Georgia: Baker, Decatur, Grady, and Thomas. Texas: Gonzalez. Missouri: Greene. Connecticut: Fairfield. Tennessee: Obion. North Carolina: Richmond. Alabama: Lee.
  8. Carr, S.C., K.M. Robertson, and R.K. Peet. 2010. A vegetation classification of fire-dependent pinelands of Florida. Castanea 75:153-189.
  9. Nelson, G. PanFlora: Plant data for the eastern United States with emphasis on the Southeastern Coastal Plains, Florida, and the Florida Panhandle. Accessed: 21 MAY 2018
  10. Kirkman, L. Katherine. Unpublished database of seed dispersal mode of plants found in Coastal Plain longleaf pine-grasslands of the Jones Ecological Research Center, Georgia.
  11. Glitzenstein, J. S., D. R. Streng, R. E. Masters, K. M. Robertson and S. M. Hermann 2012. Fire-frequency effects on vegetation in north Florida pinelands: Another look at the long-term Stoddard Fire Research Plots at Tall Timbers Research Station. Forest Ecology and Management 264: 197-209.
  12. Leif, J. 2013, Plant Guide for Dillenius’ ticktrefoil (Desmodium glabellum). USDA-Natural Resources Conservation Service, East Lansing, Michigan. 48823.