Desmodium tenuifolium

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Desmodium tenuifolium
Photo taken and permission granted by Jeff Pippen,
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Plantae
Division: Magnoliophyta - Flowering plants
Class: Magnoliopsida – Dicotyledons
Order: Fabales
Family: Fabaceae ⁄ Leguminosae
Genus: Desmodium
Species: D. tenuifolium
Binomial name
Desmodium tenuifolium
Torr. & A. Gray
DESM TENU dist.jpg
Natural range of Desmodium tenuifolium from USDA NRCS Plants Database.

Common name: Slimleaf tick-trefoil

Taxonomic notes

Synonym: Meibomia tenuifolia (Torrey & A. Gray) Kuntze


Generally, for Desmodium genus, they are "annual or perennial herbs, shrubs or small trees. Leaves 1-5 foliolate, pinnately 3-foliolate in ours or rarely the uppermost or lowermost 1-foliolate; leaflets entire, usually stipellate; stipules caduceus to persistent, ovate to subulate, foliaceous to setaceous, often striate. Inflorescence terminal and from the upper axils, paniculate or occasionally racemose; pedicel of each papilionaceous flower subtended by a secondary bract or bractlet, the cluster of 1-few flowers subtended by a primary bract. Calyx slightly to conspicuously 2-lipped, the upper lip scarcely bifid, the lower lip 3-dentate; petals pink, roseate, purple, bluish or white; stamens monadelphous or more commonly diadelphous and then 9 and 1. Legume a stipitate loment, the segments 2-many or rarely solitary, usually flattened and densely uncinated-pubescent, separating into 1-seeded, indehiscent segments." [1]

Specifically, for D. tenuifolium species, they are "erect, perennial herb; stems 0.5-1.2 m tall, densely but inconspicuously uncinulate-puberulent and sparsely uncinlate-pubescent, often becoming glabrate below. Terminal leaflets very narrowly linear, often 8-15 X as long as wide (2.5) 4-8 cm long, 3-8 mm wide, glabrous to minutely puberulent above, sparsely short-pubescent beneath, especially along the veins, noticeable reticulate; stipules linear to linear-subulate, 2-5 mm long; stipels persistent. Inflorescence usually paniculate; pedicels 4-10 mm long. Calyx densely puberulent and sparsely short-pubescent; petals pinkish to purplish, 4-5 mm long; stamens diadelphous. Loment of 1-3 suborbicular to subelliptic segments, each 3.5-5 mm long, 2.5-3.5 mm broad, upper suture of each segment bowing outward, uncinulate-puberulent on both sides and sutures; stipe 1-2 mm long, slightly shorter to barely exceeding the calyx and shorter than the stamina remnants." [1]




This species is found in wiregrass savannas, mesic woodlands, flatwoods, pond margins, and longleaf pine forests.[2] It also occurs in disturbed areas such as roadsides and clear-cuts.[2] It generally prefers semi-shaded habitats with dry to moist sandy soils, including loamy sand, sand, and sandy peat. [2] Associated species include wiregrass, slash pine, saw palmetto, longleaf pine. [2]

In North Carolina D. tenuifolium is found in mesic and dry type pine savanna maintained with frequent fire. Mesic savannas in North Carolina consist exclusively of Pinus palustris. Dry savannas in North Carolina typically occur on the high, central portion of the more dome-shaped islands, or where the soil is coarse textured and well drained.[3]


Flowering has been observed in May, September and October, with peak inflorescence in September and fruiting has been observed in July, September, October, and November. [2]

Fire ecology

This species is found in savannas that are frequently burned.[3]

Use by animals

There is only one record where the seeds were found in a bobwhite quail's stomach. [4]

Conservation and management

Cultivation and restoration

Photo Gallery

References and notes

  1. 1.0 1.1 Radford, Albert E., Harry E. Ahles, and C. Ritchie Bell. Manual of the Vascular Flora of the Carolinas. 1964, 1968. The University of North Carolina Press. 604-8. Print.
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 2.3 2.4 Florida State University Robert K. Godfrey Herbarium database. URL: Last accessed: June 2014. Collectors: Loran C. Anderson, J.P. Gillespie, R.K. Godfrey, R. Komarek, R. Kral, Robert L. Lazor, S.W. Leonard, and John Morrill. States and Counties: Florida: Bay, Franklin, Jefferson, Liberty, Madison, and Wakulla. Georgia: Baker, Decatur, and Thomas. North Carolina: Harnett. Alabama: Covington.
  3. 3.0 3.1 Walker, J. a. R. K. P. (1984). "Composition and Species Diversity of Pine-Wiregrass Savannas of the Green Swamp, North Carolina." Vegetatio 55(3): 163-179.
  4. [Edward Graham Google Books] Graham, Edward II. (1941). Legumes for erosion control and wildlife. U.S. Department of Agriculture. Accessed: April 22, 2016.