Alysicarpus rugosus

Click on images to enlarge

Print Fact Sheet

Scientific name

Alysicarpus rugosus (Willd.) DC.

Subordinate taxa:
Alysicarpus rugosus (Willd.) DC. subsp. perennirufus J. Léonard
Alysicarpus rugosus (Willd.) DC. subsp. rugosus


Hedysarum rugosum Willd.
Fabricia rugosa (Willd.) Kuntze


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

Common names

red moneywort, rough chainpea.

Morphological description

Prostrate to erect annual or perennial legume growing to 60 cm, occasionally to 150 cm.  Oblong to lanceolate leaves to 100 mm long x 20 mm wide with papery stipules to 8 mm.
Dense mass of reddish flowers in racemes to 100 mm long;  pods 12 mm long with 3–5 joints with prominent transverse ribs, breaking into segments when ripe.  The pod articles are 1–3 mm long and 1.5–3 mm wide.
Morphological traits vary greatly within the species.


Africa:  Tropical.
Western Indian Ocean:  Madagascar
Asia:  China – Yunnan (south).
Indian Subcontinent:  India, Nepal, Pakistan, Sri Lanka.
Indo-China:  Laos, Myanmar, Thailand, Vietnam.
Malesia:  Indonesia, Malaysia.
Australasia:  Australia - Northern Territory, Queensland, Western Australia (north).

Naturalised in Taiwan.  Now found throughout the tropics.


Possible use as an annual ley legume, for cut and carry, green manure or grazing.  Seeds are listed as a famine food in India.


Soil requirements

Grows on sandy loam to clay soils.  Literature suggests poor adaptation to acid-infertile soils.


Grows in areas with 600–1,500 mm annual rainfall but apparently better adapted to areas with higher (>900mm) rainfall .


Warm season growth, but grown up to 1,400 m in the foothills of the Himalayas.


Intolerant of low light conditions.

Reproductive development

Probably a short day plant.  Variable maturity but seeds in first year of growth.


Poor persistence under grazing;  poor regeneration from seed.


Unlikely to tolerate fire unless the plant has dropped seed, enabling regeneration from soil seed reserves.


Guidelines for the establishment and management of sown pastures.


Generally planted in a species mixture at 0.25–0.5 kg/ha seed.  Hard seed coat requires scarification .  Early growth is generally rapid, but long-term persistence is generally poor for planted crops.


No information available.

Compatibility (with other species)

Poor compatability with aggressive weeds or grasses especially in drier environments.

Companion species

Generally sown in a mixture of herbaceous and twining legumes.

Pests and diseases

No information available.

Ability to spread

Limited ability to spread under grazing because of high palatability and short-lived life cycle.  Although good seed set may occur in the first year, hard-seededness prevents early recruitment from seed.

Weed potential

Recorded as a weed of wet season cropping in India (upland rice, mung beans and pigeon pea).  Has become naturalised in Australia and Taiwan.  Hard-seededness assists long-term spread.

Feeding value

Nutritive value

Crude protein concentrations range from 15–22% for leaf, and 8–10% for stem.  Tends to become stemmy in mixed pastures.  In Zambia, stem comprised 60% of total yield.




None reported.

Production potential

Dry matter

In single species plots, annual DM yields of 3,000–7,500 kg/ha have been recorded in Zambia, Vanuatu and Australia.  Annual yields declined progressively and substantially in the second and third years of growth and most accessions failed to persist beyond the third year.

Animal production

Few evaluations for animal production potential were cited.  Green lucerne as a supply of 50% of crude protein requirements for crossbred dairy weaner cattle in India was replaced by A. rugosus hay without reduction in liveweight gains.  Similar results were reported in related work where liveweight gains were maximised at 40% replacement of crude protein requirements with A. rugosus  hay.


No breeding programs have been undertaken.  Substantial variation exists in morphology and ability to perennate.

Seed production

Heavy seed production but harvest is difficult due to uneven ripening and break-up of seedpods when ripe.

Herbicide effects

Two-day-old seedlings were susceptible to 2,4-D, 2,4,5-T, MCPA and aminotriazole at concentrations of 500–1,000 ppm .



Other comments

Tested as a ley legume for heavy textured soils in Queensland, Australia.

Selected references

Gramshaw, D, Pengelly, B.C, Muller, F.W., the late W.A.T. Harding and Williams, R.J. (1987) Classification of a collection of the legume Alysicarpus using morphological and preliminary agronomic attributes. Australian Journal of Agricultural Research, 38, 355–372.
Kallah, M.S., Bale, J.O., Abdullahi, U.S., Muhammad, I.R. and Lawal, R. (2000) Nutrient composition of native forbs of semi-arid and dry sub-humid savannas of Nigeria. Animal Feed Science and Technology, 84, 137–145.
Njarui, D.M.G., Beattie, W.M, Jones, R.J. and Keating, B.A. (2004) Evaluation of forage legumes in the semi-arid region of eastern Kenya. I. Establishment, visual bulk rating, insects, pests and diseases incidences of a range of forage legumes. Tropical and Subtropical Agroecosystems, 4, 33–55.
Patel, P.M., Gholap, G.U., Gujar, B.V. and Pawar, A.S. (1991) Effect of part protein replacement by leguminous weed shevra (Alysicarpus rugosus DC) in the diet of crossbred (Holstein x Deoni) heifers. Indian Journal of Animal Nutrition, 8, 69–72.
Peacock, A. and Smith, F.T. (1992) Evaluation of pasture legumes on a seasonally flooded heavy clay soil in south-east Queensland. Australian Plant Introduction Review, 23, 20–23.

Internet links



Country/date released


None released to date.      

Promising accessions

Promising accessions



CPI 51655 Queensland, Australia Origin unknown.  An annual type with high yields and ability to regenerate.  Has potential as a ley legume for clay soils in Queensland, Australia.
CPI 76978, Q 24650, Q 24651, CPI 52351 Queensland, Australia Perennial types that persisted at humid tropical and subtropical sites with relatively high rainfall (700–1,000 mm/year) in Queensland, Australia. 
Established well and persisted with fair yields at sites in eastern Kenya (>1,000 m asl and 700–1,000 AAR ).
CPI 30187, CPI 69487, CPI 94489, CPI 106418 Queensland, Australia Relatively large seeded annual types evaluated in Australia.  They established easily and grew rapidly but regenerated only under favourable moisture conditions.