Desmodium tortuosum (PROSEA)

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Plant Resources of South-East Asia
List of species

Desmodium tortuosum (Swartz) DC.

Family: Leguminosae - Papilionoideae


Desmodium purpureum (Miller) Fawcett & Rendle.

Vernacular names

  • Florida beggarweed, (twisted) tick trefoil, sweetheart (En)
  • Indonesia: potong kujang.


Native to the Caribbean and Central America, introduced into Africa, Asia and Australia. In South-East Asia sometimes naturalized, e.g. in Indonesia (Java).


Green manure and cover crop, covering the ground quickly and competing well with weeds. A digestible forage, used for hay or as a browse; also a weed in e.g. groundnut. Appreciated in coconut plantations in Tamil Nadu, India, and as goat fodder in the Caribbean. As suitable as lucerne in protein supplement for poultry feed. At present its popularity seems to be waning.


Annual or perennial herb or shrub up to 1.5 m tall. Branches striate, hairs fine and dense. Leaves trifoliolate; petiole longer than leaflet, stipules lanceolate, 6-15 mm long; leaflets ovate to elliptical, 2-10(-14) cm × 1-7 cm. Inflorescence a lax, simple or branched panicle of racemes, 15-30 cm long; bracts lanceolate-acuminate, 6-8 mm long, with long hairs along the margin; flowers 2-3 together; pedicel filiform, 1-2 cm long; calyx 2-3 mm long; petals blue to purple, 4-5 mm long. Pod 1-3 cm × 3 mm, with 3-6 ovate-rounded joints, each 4-5 mm in diameter. D. tortuosum is found in disturbed areas, cultivated fields and grassland, on sandy or calcareous soils in coastal areas, up to 1200 m altitude.

Selected sources

8, 16, 17, 62, 92, 174.


M.S.M. Sosef & L.J.G. van der Maesen