Zornia latifolia

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Flowers, bristled segmented hairy pods with distinctive bracts, and seeds.

Prostrate stems, bifoliolate leaves, and flowers.

Prostrate stems, bifoliolate leaves, and pods.

A prostrate tap-rooted perennial.

Pot specimen with sprawling stems and pods.

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Scientific name

Zornia latifolia Sm.


Zornia diphylla (L.) Pers. var. gracilis (DC.) Benth.
Zornia gracilis DC.

Often "Zornia diphylla" in non-botanical literature.


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

Common names

koemataballi (Suriname);  tencilla, zornia, barba de burro (El Salvador).

Morphological description

A perennial, tap-rooted herb.  Stems 20-50 cm long, glabrous or pubescent, with a prostrate growth habit and intense branching.  Stipules lanceolate, striate, to 1 cm long.  Leaves bifoliolate, leaflets lanceolate-oblong, acute at the apex, glabrous or pubescent, 1-4 cm long.  Inflorescence a terminal peduncled spike, flowers alternate, 1-35 per inflorescence, bractlets stipuliform, up to 1.5 cm long, nearly enclosing the flower.  Calyx hyaline, 4 mm long, ciliate.  Petals yellow, approximately 1 cm long.  Pods 2-8 jointed, shortly beaked, more or less spiny, pubescent, the inferior margin deeply crenate , the superior margin nearly straight, joints rounded, 2-3 mm long and wide.  770,000 seeds/kg.


Native to:
South America:  Argentina (north of latitude 35°S), Bolivia, Brazil, Colombia, Ecuador, French Guiana, Guyana, Paraguay, Peru, Suriname, Uruguay, Venezuela.
Chief habitats are open fields and grassy areas.

Naturalized in:
Ttropical West Africa.


No evidence of its use in sown, improved pastures.


Soil requirements

Well adapted to the free-draining, acid and low-fertility, Al-toxic oxisols of the South American savannas.


Grows well in areas with 1,000-2,000 mm rainfall/year;  drought resistant, survives dry season of 4-6 months.


Warm-season plant, no growth at <13°C.


Little or no shade tolerance.

Reproductive development

Flowering induced by short days;  occurs sequentially from the basal to the terminal flowers of the inflorescence;  flowers open for 5-10 hours at anthesis.  Fertilization is mainly autogamous , with a very low proportion of insect-dependent crossing.  Free-seeding.


Tolerates defoliation .


Recovers from soil seed bank.


Guidelines for the establishment and management of sown pastures.


Seed sown at 2-3 kg/ha;  no rhizobium specificity;  fresh seed requires scarification .


Recommendation in the Llanos Orientales of Colombia:  P, K, S at 20, 20, 10 kg/ha respectively.

Compatibility (with other species)

Compatible with bunch grasses.

Companion species

Grasses:  Andropogon gayanus , Brachiaria decumbens .

Pests and diseases

Main limitation to the use of Z. latifolia is susceptibility to diseases, namely scab (Sphaceloma zorniae) and a virus-blackmould (Meliola sp.) complex, causing leafrolling distortion and stunted growth.  Formerly promising accession CIAT 728 quite susceptible;  accession CIAT 9199 tolerant. Also attacked in seed stands by the bud worm (Stegasta bosqueella ), which, however, is easily controlled by insecticides.

Ability to spread

Good natural spread by self-sown seed.

Weed potential

Minimal, easy to control by herbicides.

Feeding value

Nutritive value

Mature, seeding plants:  CP 14-17%, IVOMD 69%.




Oestrogenic activity has been recorded in scab-affected foliage.

Production potential

Dry matter

DM yields recorded in the humid tropics of South America:  2.4-2.8 t/ha in 12 weeks;  in the Colombian Llanos Orientales, 0.6-4.9 t/ha when grown in association with Brachiaria decumbens and/or Andropogon gayanus .

Animal production

LWG of steers grazing a mixture of Z. latifolia CIAT 728 with Andropogon gayanus in the Colombian Llanos Orientales was, in the third year, 135 g/day in the 3-month dry season and 420 g/day in the 9-month rainy season.


No information available.

Seed production

Annual yields of up to 700 kg/ha seed have been obtained over a 3-year period at the Cerrados Agricultural Research Centre, near Brasilia, Brazil.  Optimum temperatures for seed setting range from 20-27ºC.

Herbicide effects

No information available.



Other comments


Selected references

Jutzi, S.C. and Nösberger, J. (1984) Seed production and growth of the tropical pasture legume Zornia latifolia accession CIAT 728. Tropical Grasslands, 18, 138-148.
Keller-Grein, G., Amézquita, M.C., Lema, G. and Franco, L.H. (1993) Multilocational testing of grasses and legumes in the humid tropics of South America. Proceedings, XVII International Grassland Congress, 8-21 February 1993, New Zealand and Australia. pp. 217-219.
Thomas, D. and Grof, B. (1986) Some pasture species for the tropical savannas of South America. II. Species of Centrosema, Desmodium, and Zornia. Herbage Abstracts, 56, 511-525.

Internet links




Country/date released


None released to date.            

Promising accessions

Promising accessions



CIAT 9199 Colombia Tolerant of Sphaceloma scab