Aeschynomene histrix

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Compact axillary inflorescences.

Compact axillary inflorescences.

var. histrix in flower.

Prostrate pubescent foliage with pinnate leaves.

Semi-erect tap-rooted sub-shrub.

Promising green manure crop.

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Scientific name

Aeschynomene histrix Poir.

Subordinate taxa:
Aeschynomene histrix Poir. var. densiflora (Benth.) Rudd
Aeschynomene histrix Poir. var. histrix
Aeschynomene histrix Poir. var. incana (Vogel) Benth.


Secula hystrix (Poir.) Small
Aeschynomene densiflora Benth.
Aeschynomene incana Vogel
Aeschynomene cassioides Desv.
Aeschynomene conferta Benth.
Aeschynomene echinus Vogel
Aeschynomene pineticola Standley & L.O. Williams


Family: Fabaceae (alt. Leguminosae) subfamily: Faboideae tribe: Aeschymoneneae subtribe: Aeschynomeninae. Also placed in: Papilionaceae.

Common names

porcupine jointvetch.

Morphological description

Prostrate to semi-erect or erect tap-rooted perennial herb or sub-shrub, from 10-80 cm tall, and 75-160 cm diameter;  stem moderately pubescent, and hispid with yellowish glandular hairs 2-4 mm long.  Leaves 16-30 foliolate, leaflets oblong-elliptic, rarely obovate, 4-12 mm long, 1.5-4 mm wide, upper surface pubescent to glabrous, lower surface pubescent.  Inflorescence axillary, comprising 4-15 yellow, orange or white flowers, with standard 5-7 mm long.  Pod glabrous to moderately pubescent , comprising 2 (rarely 3) fertile segments, each 2-2.5 (rarely 3) mm long, and 2.5 mm wide.  Seeds black, 1.5-2 mm long, 1-1.5 mm wide, 420,000-910,000 seeds/kg.


Native to or naturalised in:
North America :  Mexico (Mexico, Jalisco), USA (Florida).
Central America :  Belize, Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua, Panama.
South America :  northern Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Colombia, French Guiana, Guyana, Paraguay, Peru, Suriname, Uruguay, Venezuela.
Occurs in savannah , grassland, pine woods, rocky hillsides and waste places.


Although not extensively evaluated, A. histrix appears to have potential to contribute to both livestock-forage and improved fallow systems in the tropics.  Can act as a fast-decomposing green manure , although establishment may be too slow, and may produce insufficient bulk for this purpose.  Genetic variation in ability to act as a trap crop for the parasitic plant, Striga hermonthica in cropping systems.  May have potential in permanent pastures, but needs further evaluation of persistence.


Soil requirements

Collected mainly in sandy, acid and low-fertility soils, although also in sandy loams and clays.  Adapted to acid to neutral, well drained, low-fertility soils such as ultisols and oxisols.


Occurs naturally in areas with annual rainfall mostly between 1,000 mm and 1,500 mm, the extremes being about 800 mm in Argentina and 2,760 mm in Panama.  Moderate drought tolerance.  No record of tolerance of flooding or waterlogging .


Mostly from about 15ºN in Guatemala to about 23ºS in Paraguay, at altitudes to about 1,400 m  asl .  A. histrix var. incana extends to about 34ºS in Uruguay and 31ºS in Argentina, and to 31ºN in Florida.  This represents a range in average annual temperatures for the species from about 17-26ºC.


No information available.

Reproductive development

A. histrix is primarily a short day plant.  There is considerable variation in critical photoperiod within the species.


Plants are sensitive to frequent cutting.  It would be expected that the more prostrate types are better adapted to grazing than erect types.


No information available.


Guidelines for the establishment and management of sown pastures.


Mechanical scarification of hand-harvested seed may be necessary to overcome high levels of hardseededness .  Machine harvested seed is scarified by the threshing process.  A. histrix appears to be somewhat promiscuous, but may nodulate more effectively with Bradyrhizobium strain CB 2312.


No information available.

Compatibility (with other species)

Competes successfully with weeds in a seasonally dry environment.  Has not been successful in more humid environments, possibly due to higher grass competition.

Companion species

Grasses:  Bothriochloa pertusa , Urochloa mosambicensis .
Legumes:  Chamaecrista rotundifolia , Stylosanthes guianensis, S. hamata , S. scabra .

Pests and diseases

Anthracnose, caused by the fungus Colletotrichum gloeosporioides, is the most important disease in A. histrix .  Isolates of the pathogen from Aeschynomene spp. can infect other legumes.  More prostrate ecotypes are generally more affected by Rhizoctonia foliar blight, and semi-erect to erect ecotypes by Fusarium wilt.  Some ecotypes appear susceptible to legume little-leaf phytoplasma .
Flowers and developing pods may be attacked by heliothis (Helicoverpa armigera ) larvae.

Ability to spread

A. histrix spreads by seed.  However, many accessions are very late flowering and seed set may be interrupted by dry season or frost.

Weed potential

Vigorous growth, high seed production, high levels of hard seed, and relative ease of establishment suggest weediness in certain environments.

Feeding value

Nutritive value

Average leaf: stem ratios vary from 0.5:1 to 1.1:1, with individual ecotype extremes ranging from 0.3:1 to 1.9:1 depending on ecotype and age of growth.  Crude protein levels vary from 13-28% (av. 20%) in leaf, and 9-15% (av. 12%) in stem.  IVDMD of leaf averages 53-66 % (extremes 32-82%) and of stem , 30-40% (extremes 23-45%).  Single record of P levels in A. histrix :  leaf 0.17%, stem 0.09%.


As with many tropical legumes, stock acceptance of A. histrix improves with exposure to the species, to the point where it is readily eaten.


No information available.

Production potential

Dry matter

In a set of more tropical selections, 5 growth habit groups identified:  (1) semi-erect, low growing; (2) prostrate, open; (3) decumbent, dense; (4) decumbent or semi-erect, few branches, thick stems, open; (5) semi-erect to erect, many branches, dense.  Annual DM yields vary markedly with ecotype, from < 2-17 t/ha, but mostly 2-8 t/ha.

Animal production

No information available.


2n = 20.  Aeschynomene species are mostly self-fertile.

Seed production

Hand harvested seed yields average about 90 kg/ha, and more than 200 kg/ha in some accessions.

Herbicide effects

No information available.



Other comments


Selected references

Bielig, L.M. (1997) Chromosome numbers in the forage legume genus, Aeschynomene L. Sabrao Journal, 29 , 33-39.
Merkel, U., Peters, M., Tarawali, S.A., Schultze-Kraft, R. and Berner, D.K. (2000) Characterization of a collection of Aeschynomene histrix in subhumid Nigeria. Journal of Agricultural Science, Cambridge, 134 , 293-304.
Rudd, V.E. (1955) The American species of Aeschynomene. Contributions from the United States National Herbarium, 32 , 81-85.

Internet links



Country/date released


None released to date.    

Promising accessions

Promising accessions



3 elite accessions selected: South-west Nigeria Selected for agronomic performance, forage quality, seed production and ability to suppress Striga hermonthica.
CIAT 9690 (ILRI 12463, IRFL-2891, CPI 93599, ILCA-00149, UF-312) From Mato Grosso, Brazil (11.6ºS 50.7ºW, 200 m asl, rainfall c. 1,500 mm). Also best performance of limited range tested in northern Australia.
CIAT 18539 (BRA-003948) From Mato Grosso, Brazil (15.1ºS 57.2ºW, 160 m asl, rainfall c. 1,700 mm).   
CIAT 18974 From Bolivar, Venezuela (7.4ºN 61.7ºW, 190 m asl, rainfall 1,270 mm).   
7 alternative accessions South-west Nigeria For use in regions without the Striga problem
CIAT 7884 From San Martin, Peru (6.5ºS 76.4ºW, 425 m asl, rainfall 1,150 mm)   

CIAT 8262 (BRA-001741)

From Sergipe, Brazil (11.1ºS 37.4ºW, 70 m asl, rainfall 1,500 mm)   
CIAT 8581 (ILCA-12135) From Goias, Brazil (7.16ºS 48.1ºW, 232 m asl, rainfall 1,650 mm)   
CIAT 8904 (BRA-002691) From Bahia, Brazil (12.8ºS 41.3ºW, 370 m asl, rainfall 1,100 mm)   
CIAT 8907 (BRA-002739) From Bahia, Brazil (12.9ºS 41.4ºW, 400 m asl, rainfall 1,100 mm)   
CIAT 8911 (BRA-002801) From Bahia, Brazil (13.0ºS 41.4ºW, 490 m asl, rainfall 1,100 mm)   
CIAT 8943 (BRA-003123) From Bahia, Brazil (12.1ºS 40.3ºW, 420 m asl, rainfall 810 mm)