Desmodium velutinum

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Hairy segmented pods and seeds.

Flowers and pods.

Erect shrub with simple leaves.

Erect shrub with simple leaves.

Variation in ecotypes of Desmodium velutinum.

Plant recovery from cutting/grazing.

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Scientific name

Desmodium velutinum (Willd.) DC.


Desmodium lasiocarpum (P. Beauv.) DC.
Desmodium latifolium (Roxb. ex Ker Gawl.) DC.
Hedysarum lasiocarpum P. Beauv.
Hedysarum latifolium Roxb. ex Ker Gawl.
Hedysarum velutinum Willd.
Meibomia lasiocarpa (P. Beauv.) Kuntze


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

Common names


Morphological description

Perennial, erect or semi-erect shrub or sub-shrub, up to 3 m high.  Branches often dark red, yellow-brown when young, velutinous and short hooked-hairy.  Leaves 1-foliolate, rarely 3-foliolate, ovate, ovate-lanceolate, triangular-ovate, or broadly ovate, 4-20 cm long and 2.5-13 cm wide, chartaceous to coriaceous, upper surface continuously appressed-pubescent, lower surface densely velutinous.  Inflorescence often dense, terminal or axillary, racemose or paniculate, 4-20 cm long, with 2-5 flowers at each node;  flowers purple to pink.  Pods narrowly oblong, 1-2.5 cm long, 2-3 mm wide, with dense yellow straight hairs intermixed with short hooked hairs, 5-7-jointed.  Seeds ovate , flat, 1.3-1.6 mm x 1.8-2.5 mm, yellow when ripe.  Depending on the genotype, there are 320,000-830,000 seeds per kg.


Native to:
Subtropical Asia (China, Taiwan, India, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, Sri Lanka, Thailand, Vietnam) and tropical Africa.


No current use as research on this species has only recently begun.  Its potential use is in cut-and-carry or permanently grazed systems.


Soil requirements

Adapted to a wide range of soil pH, from very acid (pH 4.0) to alkaline.  Adapted to low-fertility soils.


D. velutinum prefers more humid climates of >1000->3000 mm rainfall /year.  However, tolerates up to 5 months dry season.


Grows at altitudes from 0-1,500 m asl, with average temperature above 20ºC.


Has some shade tolerance as it grows in forest verges in New Guinea.

Reproductive development

Indeterminate flowering.


Little information available but it regrows well after infrequent severe defoliation in its native habitats.


No information available.


Guidelines for the establishment and management of sown pastures.


Can be established by cuttings or through seed.  For the latter, scarification is needed to break hardseededness .  Distance between rows 0.6-1.5 m, in the row 0.5-1 m, planted with 3-5 seeds per planting site.


In Colombia, 15-20 kg/ha P is recommended for establishment.

Compatibility (with other species)

No information available.

Companion species


Pests and diseases

No information available.

Ability to spread

No information available.

Weed potential

A prolific seed producer.

Feeding value

Nutritive value

High nutritive quality of edible material, CP 16-27%, IVDMD 55-80%, depending on accession ;  very low amounts of tannins.


Moderately palatable to cattle;  higher acceptability in the dry than in the wet season.


No information available.

Production potential

Dry matter

Up to 10 t/ha DM in 6 months under cutting on savanna soils in northern Nigeria.

Animal production

No information available.


2n = 22.

Seed production

A prolific seed producer.

Herbicide effects

No information available.



Other comments

Persistence under cutting and grazing not clear.

Selected references

Akinola, J.O., Afolayan, R.A. and Alorunju, S.A.S. (1991) Effects of storage, testa colour and scarification method on seed germination of Desmodium velutinum (Willd.) DC. Seed Science and Technology, 19, 159-166.
Asare, E.O., Shehu, Y. and Agishi, E.A. (1984) Preliminary studies on indigenous species for dry season grazing in the northern Guinea savanna zone of Nigeria. Tropical Grasslands, 18, 148-152.
Huang Puhua and Ohashi, H. (ND) Fabaceae: Trib. Desmodieae (Draft). shrub legumes on intake rate and acceptability by small ruminants. Pasturas Tropicales, 20, 31-35.
Larbi, A., Awojide, A.A., Adenkunle, I.O., Ladipo, D.O. and Akinlade, J.A. (2000) Fodder production responses to pruning height and fodder quality of some trees and shrubs in a forest-savanna transition zone in southwestern Nigeria. Agroforestry Systems, 48, 157-168.
Mzamane, N. and Agishi, E.C. (1986) Desmodium velutinum : A promising leguminous browse shrub of Nigeria's savannas. PGRC/E ILCA Germplasm Newsletter, 12, 24-26.
Schultze-Kraft R. (1996) Leguminous forage shrubs for acid soils in the tropics. In: Elgersma, A., Struik, P.C. and Maesen, L.J.G. van der (eds) Grassland Science in Perspective. Wageningen Agricultural University Papers, 96-4, 67-81.
Schultze-Kraft, R., Lascano, C., Benavides, G. and GÓmez, J.M. (1989) Relative palatability of some little-known tropical forage legumes. Proceedings of the XVI International Grassland Congress, 4-11 October 1989, Nice, France. pp. 785-786.
Schultze- Kraft, R., Peters, M., Vivas, N., Parra, F. and Franco, L.H. (2005) Desmodium velutinum - a high quality legume shrub for acid soils in the tropics. In: Proceedings of the XX International Grassland Congress, Dublin, Ireland. In press.
Thomas, D. and Schultze-Kraft, R. (1990) Evaluation of five shrubby legumes in comparison with Centrosema acutifolium , Carimagua, Colombia. Tropical Grasslands, 24, 87-92.

Internet links




Country/date released


None released to date.          

Promising accessions

Promising accessions



CIAT 13214, 13218, 23138, 23275, 23975, 23982, 23995, 23990, 23996 Colombia Subhumid to humid environment.  Selected in Santander de Quilichao (CIAT research station) for adaptation to acid soils, nutritive value and DM production.
CIAT 13953 Costa Rica Subhumid to humid environment.  Selected for DM yield across a range of environments from acid to moderately acid soils.
134 accessions under evaluation at CIAT (2004) Colombia Subhumid to humid environment.  Selected in Santander de Quilichao (CIAT research station) for DM yield (>190 g/plant/8 weeks), IVDMD (>66%), adaptation to acid soils and drought (>3 months).