Centrosema brasilianum

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Foliage, flowers and immature pods.

Various stages of pod development - and seeds.

Foliage and flowers.

Foliage and flowers.

Twining/climbing on dead tree branch - and pods.

With Andropogon gayanus in Brazil.

cv. Oolloo in tropical Australia.

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Scientific name

Centrosema brasilianum (L.) Benth.


Clitoria brasiliana L.


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

Common names


Morphological description

Centrosema brasilianum is commonly described as a prostrate-trailing to twining, perennial, herbaceous legume.  However, some erect and semi-erect forms were identified.  Similarly, the ability to form adventitious roots on trailing stems varies among studies.  Leaves are trifoliolate, leaflets elliptical-oblong to lanceolate, sometimes ovate, 3.3-6.6 cm long, 1.5-3.6 cm wide.  Flowers usually in racemes of 2-5 flowers, sometimes solitary.  Bracteoles glabrous or pubescent, 3-13 mm long, 12-17 mm long and 5-10 mm wide, ovate and flat or cupped.  Peduncles in leaf axils, 4-30 mm long.  Papilionate flower, usually violet, violet-blue or red-lilac, in rare cases also white or purple.  Variation in colour intensity within one accession can occur, suggesting some degree of outcrossing.  Time from sowing to flowering from <3-7 months.  Pods linear, dehiscent , 70-160 mm long and 4-5 mm wide, containing 8-23 seeds.  Seeds light to dark brown, sometimes grey, black or yellow, often with darker stripes or mottled.  Seeds cylindrical, 3.4-4.4 mm long, 2.3-3.1 mm wide.  Thousand seed weight 11-30g.


Native to:
Basic passport data of accessions can be accessed on the internet (http://singer.cgiar.org/).  C. brasilianum has a wide natural distribution in the tropics of South America, with a latitude range of 23°S-12°N.  It is found most frequently in subhumid vegetation zones - such as semi-evergreen seasonal forest, deciduous forest and savannah - mainly in northeast Brazil and Venezuela;  some accessions were collected in the 'caatinga', the xerophytic vegetation form typical of very dry locations in northeastern Brazil.  It is rarely found in rainforest margin areas.  C. brasilianum is a true lowland species, with accessions collected at altitudes of 50-300 m above sea level (asl);  few accessions originate from higher altitudes  (up to 800 m asl , mostly in northeast Brazil).


C. brasilianum has been evaluated extensively, mostly under cutting, in a wide range of environments in Australia, Africa and South America.
Evaluations under cutting identified C. brasilianum as a promising species for the semi-arid to dry-subhumid environments of northern Australia, West Africa and South America, with tolerance to acid soils with high levels of aluminium.
Persistence under grazing depends on pasture management, with periodic regeneration through seeds seen as the main mechanism for persistence.  Such regeneration is favoured by the free seeding habit of this species.  In long-term (11 years) grazing studies in northern Australia, only a few accessions of C. brasilianum persisted under grazing, among them cv. Oolloo.


Soil requirements

Native habitat:  well drained, acid to very acid (pH 4.1-6.3), of medium to low fertility and of sandy to loamy texture, tolerance to high levels of aluminium.  CIAT 5234 has shown some adaptation to less well-drained soils in the flooded savannas of the Pantanal of Brazil.


A particular characteristic of C. brasilianum is its high tolerance to drought , with the ability to retain green leaves over extended (>5-8 months) dry seasons.  Osmotic and stomatal regulations are the main processes to control water loss.  However, as the tolerance to leaf water deficits is lower than for other Centrosema spp. and leaf morphology does not indicate adaptation to drought, drought tolerance of C. brasilianum is attributed to its deep rooting system (taproot ).


Warm season plant.  In northeast Argentina, the species is less affected by frost than Centrosema macrocarpum .


No information available.

Reproductive development

In the Venezuelan savannas, flowering initiated 67-92 days after planting, with maximum flowering 104-138 days after planting.  A wide range of time to flowering was also observed in the savannas of northern Nigeria.


Good tolerance to grazing and cutting.


Some tolerance to fire.


Guidelines for the establishment and management of sown pastures.


Scarification of seeds before sowing is necessary.  Positive results were obtained with mechanical scarification, hot water treatment, Osram irradiation and sulphuric acid.  C. brasilianum establishes relatively slowly hence weed control during establishment is beneficial.  Can be established in oxisols and ultisols in roughly prepared seedbeds, following disc harrowing or chisel ploughing and some vegetation control.  A sowing depth of 5 cm is recommended, with seeding rates of 4-5 kg/ha.  Promiscuous in its Bradyrhizobium requirements but in experiments in Colombia, the species has responded to inoculation .


As for other Centrosema species, phosphorus is the most limiting nutrient for establishment.  Recommendations range from 10-40 kg/ha P, depending on soil parameters.  In contrast to commercial centro (C. molle ), C. brasilianum requires only small quantities of magnesium and calcium for establishment.

Compatibility (with other species)

Successful mixtures with Stylosanthes capitata and a range of grasses reported.  Compatible with erect, tufted and stoloniferous grasses.

Companion species

Grasses:  Setaria sphacelata, Andropogon gayanus , Panicum maximum , Hyparrhenia rufa, Brachiaria spp.

Pests and diseases

The biggest limitation for C. brasilianum , particularly in humid environments, is its susceptibility to rhizoctonia foliar blight (RFB), a fungal disease caused by a complex of Rhizoctonia solani, binucleate Rhizoctonia sp. (BNR), and R.. zeae .  In legume -only small plots, most evaluated accessions were susceptible but a certain degree of resistance has been identified.  In grazed pastures RFB affects young seedlings - reducing persistence and dry matter production, with yield reductions of up to 50%.

Ability to spread

Depending on accession, through seed and adventitious roots on trailing stems.

Weed potential

Probably low, there are no records.

Feeding value

Nutritive value

Forage quality of C. brasilianum is high and compares favourably with other tropical legumes.  In studies with large collections in Colombia and Nigeria (130 and 257 accessions, respectively), with sampling age of 6 and 18 weeks respectively, crude protein content ranged between 11.8-19.6%.  Reports on in-vitro dry matter digestibility are variable and range from 48-56% to more than 70%.  In contrast to many other tropical legumes, C. brasilianum maintains its quality and retains its leaves under drought to a large extent.


C. brasilianum is highly palatable.  In Peru, very well accepted by cattle in the maximum rainfall period.


No information available.

Production potential

Dry matter

3-10 t/ha/year DM.

Animal production

Positive effects of C. brasilianum on liveweight gains in associations with Setaria sphacelata cv. Kazungula and other grasses, and sward persistence are reported from Australia and Colombia.  LWG 150 kg/animal/year.  Biggest impact in dry season with LWG of 34-67 g/day/animal;  in wet season LWG of 661-667 g/day/animal.


2n = 20 and 2n = 22.  There has been no breeding work with C. brasilianum as yet.  Hybridization attempts with C. tetragonolobum have been successful.

Seed production

For cv. Oolloo, seed yields equivalent to 1,000 kg/ha have been harvested in trial plots in Australia.  In evaluations in South America, seed yields of up to 1,200-1,400 kg/ha are reported, with common yields from 200-500 kg/ha (hand-harvested).  Seed yields benefit from support systems as trellises or grass stakes.

Herbicide effects

No information available.



Other comments


Selected references

Anning, P. (1982) Evaluation of introduced legumes for pastures in the dry tropics of North Queensland. Tropical Grasslands, 16, 146-155.
Barbosa-Fevereiro, V.P. (1977) Centrosema (A.P. de Candolle) Bentham do Brasil - Leguminosae - Faboideae. Rodriguésia, 29, 159-219.
Belalcázar, J. and Schultze-Kraft, R. (1986) Centrosema brasilianum (L.) Benth.: descripciÓn de la especie y evaluaciÓn agronÓmica de sietes ecotipos. Pasturas Tropicales, 8, 14-19.
Cadisch, G., Sylvester-Bradley, R. and Nösberger, J. (1992) Variation in growth and N2 fixation within and among Centrosema spp. in response to phosphorus supply. Tropical Grasslands, 26, 226-234.
Cameron, A.G. and Lemke, B.G. (1997) Register of Australian Herbage Plant cultivars. B. Legumes. 15. Centro (c) Centrosema brasilianum (L.) Benth. (centro) cv. Oolloo. Australian Journal of Experimental Agriculture, 37, 717-718.
Clements, R.J., Winter, W.H. and Reid, R. (1984) Evaluation of some Centrosema in small plots in Northern Australia. Tropical Grasslands, 18, 83-91.
Grof, B. (1986) Forage potential of some Centrosema species in the Llanos Orientales of Colombia. Tropical Grasslands, 20, 107-112.
Lenné, J.M. (1994) Diseases of Centrosema. In: Lenné, J.M. and Trutmann, P. (eds.). Diseases of Tropical Pasture Plants. pp. 43-60. (CAB International, Wallingford, UK; CIAT, Cali, Colombia; and NRI, Chatham Maritime, UK).
Ludlow, M.M., Chu, A.C.P., Clements, R.J. and Kerslake, R.G. (1983) Adaptation of species of Centrosema to water stress. Australian Journal of Plant Physiology, 10, 119-130.
Maass, B.L. and Torres, A.M. (1992) Outcrossing in the tropical forage legume Centrosema brasilianum . In Abstracts of the XVIII Eucarpia Congress. pp. 465-466.
Peters, M., Kramer, H., Tarawali, S.A. and Schultze-Kraft, R. (1998) Characterization of a germplasm collection of the tropical pasture legume Centrosema brasilianum in subhumid West Africa. Journal of Agricultural Science , 130, 139-147.
Peters, M., Tarawali, S.A. and Schultze-Kraft, R. (2000) Relative palatability and seasonal agronomic performance of selected pasture legumes for species mixtures in dry-subhumid West Africa. Experimental Agriculture, 36, 353-368.
Schultze-Kraft, R. and Belalcázar, J. (1988) Germplasm evaluation and preliminary evaluation of the pasture legume Centrosema brasilianum (L.) Benth. Tropical Agriculture (Trinidad), 65, 137-144.
Schultze-Kraft, R. and Clements, R.J. (eds) (1990) Centrosema: Biology, Agronomy , and Utilization. CIAT Publication No. 92, Cali, Colombia.
Tarawali, S.A. (1994) The yield and persistence of selected forage legumes in subhumid and semi-arid West Africa. Tropical Grasslands, 28, 80-89.

Internet links




Country/date released


'Oolloo' Australia (1997)     

Promising accessions

Promising accessions 



ILRI 155 = CIAT 5234 Colombia, Nigeria


CIAT 5178, CIAT 5234 Colombia savannas     
CIAT 5055, CIAT 5234,
CIAT 5247
Venezuela savannas
CIAT 5468, CIAT 5553,
CIAT 5689, CIAT 5823,
CIAT 25112,
CIAT 25132
Nigeria savannas Group A material (rapid establishment, short term use).
CIAT 5512, CIAT 5667
CIAT 15192,
CIAT 15270,
CIAT 15401,
CIAT 25113,
CIAT 25210
Nigeria savannas Group B material (higher persistence, longer term use).