Centrosema pubescens

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Flowers, immature pods, and seeds.

A comparison of common Centrosema molle (left) and Centrosema pubescens cv. Belalto (right).

cv. Belalto climbing on fence.

cv. Belalto with Panicum maximum cv. Makueni.

Cercospera Leaf Spot on cv. Belalto.

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Scientific name

Centrosema pubescens  Benth.


Centrosema schiedeanum (ined.)


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

Common names


Morphological description

(Description referring to the C. pubescens form as represented by cv. Belalto).
Perennial, trailing-climbing herb with strong tendency to root at nodes of trailing stems.  Leaves trifoliolate, leaflets ovate to orbicular, ca. 3 cm long and 1.3-2 cm broad, shortly acuminate and finely pubescent.  Young leaflets and terminal portions of stolons are typically reddish.  Stipules triangular-elongated, persistent.  Inflorescence an axillary raceme with 3-5 lilac to bluish-violet flowers, each flower subtended by two striate bracteoles.  Calyx campanulate, 5-teethed;  standard orbicular, approx. 2 cm in diameter;  wings and keel much smaller than standard, directed upwards.  Pod linear, compressed, approx. 13 cm long and 5-6 mm broad, straight to slightly bent and beaked, containing up to 15 seeds.  Seeds transversely oblong to very slightly reniform , approx. 5 mm long, yellowish-greenish with dark mottles.  100-seed weight approx. 2.7 g (approx. 36,000 seeds/kg).


Native to:
Central America and Mexico up to latitude 22ºN, also in Colombia (Llanos Orientales).


Grazed pastures in mixture with a grass, legume -only protein bank, cut-and-carry.  Potential also as soil cover.


Soil requirements

Non-Mexican germplasm in general better adapted to acid, lesser fertile soils than "common centro" (Centrosema molle );  requires well-drained soils.


Subhumid to humid tropics with rainfall >2,000 mm/year.


Good growth in cool season (Australia).


No information available.

Reproductive development

Like common centro, an indeterminate legume;  flowering is induced mainly by photoperiod (short days) but is also favoured by water stress.  In Colombia, accession CIAT 5161 is very late flowering.


Because of stoloniferous habit , shows good regrowth and persistence.


No information available.


Guidelines for the establishment and management of sown pastures.


Essentially the same as common centro (Centrosema molle ).


No reports, probably not too different from C. molle ;  like C. molle , responds to inoculation with Bradyrhizobium strains CB 1923 and CB 2947.

Compatibility (with other species)

No information available.

Companion species

Reports restricted to Panicum maximum ;  otherwise probably not too different from C. molle .  Belalto centro persisted with proper fertilization and stocking management for at least 10 years in the humid tropics of Australia.

Pests and diseases

In Australia, Belalto centro less affected by Cercospora leaf spot and spider mites than common centro.

Ability to spread


Weed potential

Unknown, but probably low.

Feeding value

Nutritive value

Similar to C. molle .  Accession CIAT 5161 (Panama), means of 7 cuts, 3-month old leaf:  24% CP, 53% IVDMD, 0.19% P, 0.83% Ca;  accession CIAT 5920 (Mexico), young leaf tissue (= 6 months after planting):  26% CP, 71%


In a CIAT small-plot, cafeteria grazing trial in Quilichao, Colombia, cv. Belalto was, together with C. macrocarpum, more palatable than any of the other eight Centrosema species and botanical varieties tested.


None reported.

Production potential

Dry matter

cv. Belalto 12.8 t/ha/year DM in North Queensland;  7.6 t/ha/year DM under cutting in Quilichao, Colombia (accession CIAT 5161).

Animal production

550-650 kg/ha/year LW gain possible in humid Queensland, Australia (Belalto centro in mixture with Panicum maximum ).


2n = 22.

Seed production

Up to 350 kg/ha under experimental and 107 kg/ha under commercial conditions.

Herbicide effects

No information available.


In comparison with "common centro" (C. molle ):
* Cool-season tolerance of Belalto centro in Australia.
* Stoloniferous growth habit (Panama and Costa Rica germplasm only).


In comparison with "common centro" (C. molle ):
* Low seed production.
* Lack of competition with low-priced, imported seed of common centro.

Other comments

There are three C. pubescens forms according to germplasm origin:  (a) from Mexico (and Honduras):  coarse, rather big leaves, from higher altitude, soil fertility demanding;  (b) Central America:  smaller-leafed, stoloniferous form as represented by cv. Belalto, from higher (but also lower) altitudes;  (c) Llanos Orientales, Colombia:  low-altitude germplasm, less stoloniferous , good adaptation to acid, low-fertility soils, disease susceptible.

Selected references

Fantz, P.R. (1996) Taxonomic notes on the Centrosema pubescens Bentham complex in Central America (Leguminosae: Phaseoleae: Clitoriinae). SIDA, 17, 321-332.
Grof, B. and Harding, W.A.T. (1970) Yield attributes of some species and ecotypes of Centrosema in North Queensland. Queensland Journal of Agricultural and Animal Sciences, 27, 237-243.
Oram, R.N. (1990) Register of Australian Herbage Plant Cultivars. 3rd. Edn. p. 271. (Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization (CSIRO), East Melbourne, Victoria, Australia).
Schultze-Kraft, R. and Clements, R.J. (eds) (1990) Centrosema : Biology, Agronomy , and Utilization. Centro Internacional de Agricultura Tropical (CIAT), Cali, Colombia.
Teitzel, J.K., Wilson, R.J. and Mellor, W. (1991) Productive and stable pasture systems of cattle fattening in the humid tropics. I. Field testing on a naturally fertile site. Agricultural Systems, 36, 251-265.

Internet links




Country/date released


(Q 8333)
Australia (1971) Origin:  Costa Rica;  good cool-season tolerance.

Promising accessions

Promising accessions



CIAT 5161 Colombia Origin:  Panama;  particularly stoloniferous .