Desmodium triflorum

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Trifoliolate leaves and flowers.

Small, prostrate mat-forming legume.

Foliage, segmented pods with small hooked hairs, and seeds.

Distinctive trifoliolate leaves.

Small, prostrate mat-forming legume.

Prostrate branch forming roots at nodes.

From:‘t Mannetje, L. and Jones, R.M. (1992) Plant Resources of South-East Asia No. 4. Forages. (Pudoc Scientific Publishers, Wageningen, the Netherlands). © Prosea Foundation.

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Scientific name

Desmodium triflorum (L.) DC.


Desmodium parvifolium Blanco
Desmodium granulatum (Schumach. and Thonn.) Walp.
Hedysarum triflorum L.
Meibomia triflora (L.) Kuntze


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

Common names

creeping tick trefoil, three-flower beggarweed (English);  amor-do-campo (Portuguese);  hierba cuartillo (Spanish);  daun mules, jukut jarem, delilan (Indonesia);  rumput barek putih, sisek tenggiling (Malaysia);  kaliskis-dalag, himbispuyo, gumadep (Philippines);  smau hae lolook (Cambodia);  ya-klethoi, ya-tanhoi, ya-tansai (Thailand);  trang qua ba hoa (Vietnam);  kuddalia (India);  olmud (Palau);  konikoni, vakathengu (Fiji);  kihikihi (Tonga).

Morphological description

A small prostrate annual or perennial legume with a woody taproot.  Strongly branched stems to 50 cm frequently rooting at the nodes to form a mat.  Trifoliate leaves with leaflets up to 12 mm long and 10 mm wide.  Inflorescence with a cluster of 1–3 pink to purple flowers in leaf axils.  Pods flat, segmented, 6–18 mm long and 2–3.5 mm wide with 3–5 articles, and covered with minute hooked hairs.  The upper suture straight and the lower suture constricted between the articles.  Pods break up into segments when ripe.  Seed quadrangular to orbicular ca. 1.2 x 1.7 mm.




A naturalised component of short (grazed) native and sown pastures, where it can form up to 50% of the herbage.  Creeping mat can provide good ground cover during the wet season, especially in mown or closely cut uses such as under plantation crops and in lawns.


Soil requirements

Found on a wide range of soil types, including acid, high Al soils.


Occurs in the humid tropics and warmer subtropics with more than 1,200 mm rainfall;  it behaves as perennial under well-distributed rainfall and an annual under seasonal rainfall .  It will survive mid season dry periods.  Leaf drop occurs readily during even moderately dry periods.


Well adapted tropical and warm subtropical environments and confined to these.  Leaves are readily frosted.


Very shade-tolerant, being more dominant than grasses under the shade of shrub canopies.  Persists under plantation crops in the Pacific.

Reproductive development

Flowers and sets seed over a long period making seed production difficult.


Resistant to heavy grazing and frequent mowing or cutting.


Pastures containing D. triflorum are rarely burned with a hot fire because of low fuel loads, but the plants can re-establish from rootstocks or seed.


Guidelines for the establishment and management of sown pastures.


D. triflorum is not sown commercially.  It spreads naturally through seed in dung or by adhering to the coats of grazing animals.


Responds well to P (and S).

Compatibility (with other species)

Compatable with prostrate grass and legume species.

Companion species

Grasses:  Paspalum notatum , Axonopus spp., Cynodon spp., Bothriochloa pertusa , Ischaemum timorense .
Legumes:  Alysicarpus vaginalis , D. heterophyllum .

Pests and diseases

No information available.

Ability to spread

Occurs in most land uses in regions to which it is well adapted such as pastures, roadsides, lawns.  It is found throughout the tropics.

Weed potential

May be considered a weed in cultivation and in lawns.

Feeding value

Nutritive value

14–18% CP .


Very palatable, especially to poultry.


No reports of toxicity.

Production potential

Dry matter

Up to 4t/ha DM.

Animal production

Likely to markedly improve the diet of livestock on heavily grazed native pastures, as found on communally owned and managed grazing land.


2n = 22.

Seed production

No commercial seed production due to low growth habit and the extended period over which flowering and seed set occurs.

Herbicide effects

No information available.



Other comments

Because D. triflorum produces so little dry matter, it is unlikely to be seriously considered in any sown pasture or forage program.  However it is widespread and persistent under heavy grazing and can be a valuable component of tropical systems.

Selected references

Pengelly, B.C. (1992) Desmodium triflorum (L.) DC. In: ‘t Mannetje, L. and Jones, R.M. (eds) Plant Resources of South-East Asia No. 4. Forages. p. 116. (Pudoc Scientific Publishers, Wageningen, the Netherlands).
Williams, C.N. and Yunus, M.M. (1975) A biological study of Desmodium triflorum . Malaysian Agricultural Research, 4, 163–172.

Internet links



Country/date released


None released to date.      

Promising accessions

Promising accessions



None reported.