Teramnus labialis

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Twining foliage with ovate leaves.

Twining foliage with elliptic leaves and young pods.

Flowers (slender raceme); hairy immature and mature pods, and seeds.

Climbing over a trellis.

Sprawling, twining groundcover.

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Scientific name

Teramnus labialis (L. f.) Spreng.

Subordinate taxa:
Teramnus labialis (L. f.) Spreng. subsp. arabicus Verdc.
Teramnus labialis (L. f.) Spreng. subsp. labialis var. abyssinicus (Hochst. ex A. Rich.) Verdc.
Teramnus labialis (L. f.) Spreng. subsp. labialis var. labialis


Glycine labialis L. f.


Family: Fabaceae (alt. Leguminosae) tribe: Phaseoleae subtribe: Glycininae. Also placed in Papilionaceae.

Common names

teramnus (Cuba);  blue wiss (USA);  mashparni, mashoni, kattuzhunninveru (India);  rabbit vine, horse vine (Barbados).

Morphological description

Extremely variable perennial, twining or prostrate, trailing, some forms stoloniferous, sometimes woody at the base.  Stems 0.3-3 m long, slender, often covered with adpressed to spreading white to ferruginous hairs, sometimes glabrescent.  Leaflets rounded, elliptic, ovate, obovate, narrowly oblong or lanceolate, (1-) 3-6 (-8) cm long, (0.5-) 2-3.5 (-5) cm wide, emarginate to acuminate at the apex, mostly rounded at the base, glabrous to densely covered with white or ferruginous hairs on both surfaces;  petioles 0.9-4 cm long;  rachis 1-9 mm long;  petiolules ( 2 mm long;  stipules narrowly lanceolate, 2-3 mm long.  Inflorescence a slender raceme, with few to many flowers along the 0.3-10 cm long rachis;  peduncle 0.8-3 cm long.  Calyx tube glabrescent or hairy, ribbed, 1-3 mm long, lobes lanceolate, 0.8-3 mm long, acute, usually densely hairy;  standard white, pink or mauve, cream to pale salmon, sometimes with deeper coloured splash, obovate, 5 mm long, 3.5 mm wide.  Pods linear, 2.5-6 cm long, 2-4 mm wide, glabrescent to densely covered with adpressed or spreading hairs;  beak 2-3 mm long;  7-12 seeds/pod.  Seeds yellow-brown to dark purplish-brown, oblong or almost cylindrical, smooth or covered with a granular encrustation, 2-3 mm long, 1.2-2 mm across;  hilum minute, aril slightly developed, white with a small scale-like extension.  110,000-370,000 seeds/kg.
Most clearly distinguished from morphologically similar species of Glycine and Neonotonia by the distinctly curved tip on the pod of Teramnus.


Native to or naturalised in:
Africa:  Angola, Benin, Burundi, Cameroon, Central African Republic, Chad (south), Cote D'Ivoire, Democratic Republic of Congo (Zaire), Ethiopia, Ghana, Guinea-Bissau, Kenya, Liberia, Mali, Mozambique, Nigeria (south), Rwanda, Sao Tome & Principe, Senegal, Sierra Leone, Somalia, South Africa, Sudan, Swaziland, Tanzania, Togo, Uganda, Zambia, Zimbabwe.
Western Indian Ocean:  Comoros, Madagascar, Mauritius, Réunion, Rodrigues, Seychelles.
Asia :  Bangladesh, Cambodia, India, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, Philippines, Saudi Arabia, Sri Lanka, Taiwan (south), Thailand, Vietnam, Yemen.
Pacific:  Guam, Papua New Guinea.
Mesoamerica:  Guatemala, Nicaragua, Panama.
South America:  Guyana.
Caribbean:  Antigua and Barbuda, Barbados, British Virgin Is, Cuba, Grenada, Guadeloupe, Haiti, Hispaniola, Jamaica, Martinique, Montserrat, Puerto Rico, St. Lucia, St. Vincent and Grenadines, Trinidad & Tobago.
Found in grasslands, grasslands with scattered trees, thickets, bushland, forest clearings, cultivation and along road edges.


Component of permanent pastures, with potential for agroforestry applications due to moderate shade tolerance.  It can be grazed fairly intensively or cut for green chop.  Tribal people use seeds as food, and plant extracts are used in natural medicines in India.


Soil requirements

Found in well- (sometimes poorly-) drained sands to clays with pH (5.5-) 6.0-8.0 (-9.0).  Although originating from mostly near neutral to alkaline soils, some types have performed well on soils with pH 5.0-5.5.  Others have been collected in sodic areas.  'Semilla Clara' is not as well adapted to acid soils as species such as Macroptilium atropurpureum (Siratro) and Stylosanthes guianensis.


Mostly collected in run-on or moister areas, in regions with average annual rainfall (500-) 750-1,500 (-2,500) mm.  Probably best sown in areas with rainfall >1,000 mm.  In some areas, it grows with sour-grass (Paspalum conjugatum), a species common in shaded or on acid, poorly drained soils.  At least some ecotypes shed their leaves during dry periods and are killed off by the prolonged dry periods.


Occurs at altitude between about 25ºN and 29ºS, and from sea level to 3,000 m asl, representing a range in average annual temperatures of about 14-27ºC, sometimes with frost.  There is some variation in frost tolerance within the species, although all that have been tested have shown some measure of susceptibility.  Most have the tops killed by light to moderate frost, but recover with the onset of warmer conditions.


Has grown well under citrus (Citrus sinensis), banana (Musa sp.) and coconut (Cocos nucifera).  Exhibits shade tolerance greater than that of Vigna hosei, but less than that of the very shade tolerant Desmodium heterophyllum and Arachis pintoi .

Reproductive development

The majority appear to flower in response to shortening daylength.  Flowering time varies markedly among provenances, some flowering in about 70 days from a spring planting and others 200 days.


Tolerance of defoliation varies according to growth habit, lower growing, stoloniferous varieties normally being more tolerant than more upright types.


No information available.


Guidelines for the establishment and management of sown pastures.


Generally, seed does not require scarification.  However, levels of hard seed can be high, and scarification may be necessary in some instances to achieve at least 50% germination.  Although T. labialis appears somewhat promiscuous in relation to rhizobial requirements, inoculation with CB 756 (Australia) or an equivalent strain may be beneficial.  Seed can be broadcast or sown at 2-3 kg/ha in rows 50-75 cm apart, and no more than 3 cm deep.  Seed is small and seedling development relatively slow, so seed should be sown into a well-prepared seedbed, with the area rolled after sowing.  Stands take 6-8 months to become established.


T. labialis requires moderately fertile soil.  Application of 20 kg/ha P and 40 kg/ha K is recommended on deficient soils.  In view of the high demand for Mo by the closely related Neonotonia wightii , it may be advisable to apply 100-200 g/ha Mo every 3 years on more acid soils.

Compatibility (with other species)

T. labialis grows well in mixed pastures, persisting and producing considerable bulk without smothering the grasses.  It is probably not sufficiently aggressive to combine with more competitive grasses such as Paspalum notatum , nor does it twine to a sufficient height to combine with unmanaged tall grasses such as Panicum maximum .  However, it can combine with these larger species if they are maintained at about 50-80 cm high.

Companion species

Grasses:  Axonopus fissifolius , Bothriochloa pertusa , Stenotaphrum secundatum .
Legumes:  Macroptilium atropurpureum , Neonotonia wightii , Vigna parkeri .

Pests and diseases

It is not affected by pests and diseases to any great extent, although leaf damage caused by Fusarium and Alternaria has been recorded, particularly in the wet season.  It is less affected by Alternaria than are Macroptilium atropurpureum and Neonotonia wightii .  Some leaf damage has also been caused by the banded cucumber beetle, Diabrotica balteata (Coleoptera: Chrysomelidae).

Ability to spread

T. labialis has become naturalised outside its native range.

Weed potential

There is no evidence of its being considered a serious weed in any of the areas to which it has been introduced.

Feeding value

Nutritive value

Maintains a high leaf to stem ratio, with crude protein levels of leaf and stem being measured at 21 and 10% respectively, compared with 18 and 11% in Neonotonia wightii .  At the same time, Ca levels in leaf and stem of T. labialis were 1.2 and 1%, and P levels 0.3 and 0.2%.


Cattle select T. labialis in preference to N. wightii .  Although it is well eaten by cattle, one report suggests less so by sheep.


No record of toxicity.

Production potential

Dry matter

While more productive types can produce 10-16 t/ha DM, many produce much lower annual yields.

Animal production

No data available.


2n = 28 (20?).  There appears to be no variation within accessions grown from nursery-produced seed, suggesting this is a closely selfed species.

Seed production

Pod-set often occurs beneath the foliar canopy , and close to ground level, making mechanical harvesting difficult.  In 'Semilla Clara', which flowers in October at 22º 49'N, pods ripen in late January.  The general recommendation is to harvest 3-4 weeks after commencement of ripening, when 90-95% of pods are ripe.  While seed yields of >1 t/ha have been recorded, 0.2-0.5 t/ha are more common.

Herbicide effects

Set back by the selective grass herbicide, sethoxydim, but recovers with time.  In view of its close relationship to N. wightii , and in the absence of specific information, caution should be exercised using those chemicals that adversely affect that species:
"N. wightii is tolerant of pre-emergence applications of trifluralin and benfluralin.  Seedlings are susceptible to acifluorfen, bentazone, 2,4-D and 2,4-DB.  Tolerance to 2,4-D and 2,4-DB improves with age.  The former should only be used at 0.8 kg/ha a.e. or less once the stand is three to four months old, but still checks growth of the legume.  2,4-DB can be used at five weeks of age at 1.1 kg/ha a.e., and at 2.2 kg/ha a.e. at three to four months.  Tolerant of diquat at 140 g/ha cation from 5 to 8 weeks as long as seedlings are healthy, and at 280 g/ha once established."



Other comments

Only used commercially in Cuba.

Selected references

Eagles, D.A. and Pengelly, B.C. (1996) Morphological and agronomic attributes of a collection of the genus Teramnus. Genetic Resources Communication No. 25. Division of Tropical Crops and Pastures, CSIRO, Australia.
Febles, G. and Funes, F. (1978) Legume development in Cuba. Cuban Journal of Agricultural Science, 12, 111-124.
Funes, F. and Perez, C. (1976) Agronomical studies on perennial soybean. I. Comparison between Glycine wightii and Teramnus labialis under cutting and grazing conditions. Cuban Journal of Agricultural Science, 10, 199-209.
Funes, F. and Yepes, S. (1974) Pasture introduction in Cuba. Proceedings of the XII International Grassland Congress, 3, 89-104.
Gillett, J.B., Polhill, R.M. and Verdcourt, B. (1971) Leguminosea (Part 4) subfamily Papilionoideae (continued). In: Redhead, R.M. and Polhill, R.M. (eds) Flora of tropical East Africa. pp. 535-538. (Crown Agents).
González, Y. and Mendoza, F. (1991) Comportamiento de la germinaciÓn de Teramnus labialis cv. Semilla clara. II. Tratamientos antes de almacenar. Pastos y Forrajes (Cuba), 14, 227-234.
Gutiérrez, I.R., Pérez, G., Benega, R. and GÓmez, L. (2002) Coberturas vivas de leguminosas en el plátano (Musa sp.) 'FHIA-03'. Cultivos Tropicales (Cuba), 23, 11-17.
Kaligis, D.A. and Sumolang, C. (1991) Forage Species for Coconut Plantations in North Sulawesi. In: Shelton, H.M and Stür, W.W. (eds) Forages for Plantation Crops. ACIAR Proceedings No.32. pp. 43-48.
Mazorra, C., Borges, G, Blanco, M., Marrero, P and Gerardo Martínez, G. (2002) Aceptabilidad relativa de las principales especies de plantas que componen las coberturas citrícolas de la CPA "José Martí" Zootecnia Tropical, 20 , 341-355.
Menendez, J. (1982) Teramnus Swartz. Pastos y Forrajes (Cuba), 5, 251-263.
Pengelly, B.C. and Eagles, D.A. (1996) Diversity in the tropical legume genus Teramnus. Tropical Grasslands, 30, 298-307.
Pérez, A. and Ralo, R. (1997) Efecto de las dosis de fÓsforo y potasio sobre la producciÓn de semillas de leguminosas. I Teramnus labialis cv. Semilla Clara. Pastos y Forrajes (Cuba), 20, 133-.
Verdcourt, B. 1979. A Manual of New Guinea Legumes. Office of Forests, Lae, PNG.
Williams, M.J. (1988) Potential of some tropical forage legumes for Florida's USA sand ridge. Soil and Crop Science Society of Florida, Proceedings, 47, 184-189.

Internet links




Country/date released


'Semilla Clara' Cuba (before 1974) Selected from native/naturalised populations in Cuba.  The most commonly used cultivar.  Terminal leaflet to 5.5 x 2.5 cm, glabrate on the upper surface, hairy underneath;  pods pubescent, 3.5-5 cm long, 2-3 mm wide, beak 4 mm long;  seeds light brown in colour, 7-10/pod ,.  Flowering early October, and producing pods through to May in the northern hemisphere.  Well grazed by cattle.
'Semilla Oscura' Cuba (before 1974) Selected from native/naturalised populations in Cuba.  Shorter internodes than 'Semilla Clara';  terminal leaflet 4 x 2.1 cm, with short hairs on both surfaces;  pods slightly hairy, 3.5-4 cm long, 3 mm wide, beak 2 mm;  seeds dark brown or black, 6-9/pod .  Flowers earlier than 'Semilla Clara'.

Promising accessions

Promising accessions



The accessions below all showed merit on an acid soil at 26ºS, in an area receiving 1,100 mm rainfall , and in association with Axonopus fissifolius and Paspalum dilatatum .
CPI 52793 Queensland, Australia From Madagascar (23.08ºS, 44.1ºE, 300 m asl, rainfall 550 mm).
CPI 52794 Queensland, Australia From Gauteng, South Africa (25.45ºS, 28.12ºE, 1,300 m asl, rainfall 650 mm).
CPI 52797 Queensland, Australia From Morogoro, Tanzania (7ºS, 500 m asl, rainfall 800 mm).
CPI 52799 Queensland, Australia From Arusha, Tanzania (3ºS, 1,380 m asl, rainfall 900 mm) - collected from sodic area.
CPI 60371 Queensland, Australia From Krugerspos, South Africa (25ºS, 1,120 m asl, rainfall 500 mm).
CPI 60377
Queensland, Australia From Arusha, Tanzania (3ºS, 1,390 m asl, rainfall 1,000 mm).
CPI 70292 Queensland, Australia Selected line from Malkerns Research Station, Swaziland.
CPI 82319 Queensland, Australia From Santiago de Cuba (20ºN, 50 m asl, rainfall 1,100 mm).
CPI 114122 Queensland, Australia From Ethiopia (11.5ºN, 2,900 m asl, rainfall 1,000 mm).
CPI 114123 Queensland, Australia From Ethiopia (11.3ºN, 2,960 m asl, rainfall 1,200 mm).