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Genus Desmodium Family Fabaceae
Subfamily Faboideae

Description: Shrubs or herbs.

Leaves alternate, pinnately 3-foliolate, sometimes 1–5-foliolate; stipules striate, scarious; stipellate.

Inflorescences terminal or axillary racemes or clusters; bracts simple, sometimes caducous. Calyx tube short, upper 2 teeth ± fused. Standard oblong to ± circular, clawed; wings oblong, usually joined to the middle of the keel; keel obtuse. Stamens diadelphous or sometimes monadelphous; anthers uniform. Ovary sometimes sessile, with c. 2 ovules; style inflexed or incurved.

Pod transversely jointed, separating into 1-seeded articles; articles 1–8, usually indehiscent; seeds rarely arillate.


Photo © ANBG

Distribution and occurrence: World: 450 species, tropical & subtropical regions. Australia: c. 30 species (most species endemic or native), all mainland States.

Text by C. Gardner & T. A. James
Taxon concept:

 Key to the species 
1Leaves 1-foliolate; bracts filiform.Desmodium gangeticum
Leaves mostly 3-foliolate, occasionally a few 1-foliolate or 5-foliolate; bracts not filiform.2
2Branches spinescent; petioles 2–4 mm long; leaflets oblanceolate to oblong, 0.3–2.5 cm long, 1–6 mm wide.Desmodium acanthocladum
Branches not spinescent; petioles >4 mm long; leaflets various, 0.5–10 cm long, 5–45 mm wide.
                       Back to 1
3
3Leaflets with a conspicuous silver stripe on upper surface.Desmodium uncinatum
Leaflets uniformly green on upper surface.
                       Back to 2
4
4Pod articles inflated; leaflets lanceolate, 4–10 cm long, 4–10 times longer than wide.Desmodium campylocaulon
Pod articles flat; leaflets smaller and/or less elongate.
                       Back to 3
5
5Leaflets hairy on both surfaces.6
Leaflets ± glabrous on upper surface.
                       Back to 4
7
6Leaflets with both surfaces appressed-pubescent; apex of leaflets ± obtuse; flowers purple, c. 6 mm long.Desmodium rhytidophyllum
Leaflets with both surfaces sparsely to densely hairy; apex of leaflets acute to acuminate; flowers pink to blue, c. 10 mm long.
                       Back to 5
Desmodium intortum
7Lower surface of leaflets sparsely hairy with minute, hooked hairs, often appearing glabrous; leaflets drying ± blue-black.Desmodium brachypodum
Lower surface of leaflets sparsely to densely hairy with longer, appressed hairs, sometimes with hairs restricted to veins; leaflets not drying blue-black.
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8
8Stipules 5–15 mm long.9
Stipules 2–6 mm long.
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10
9Stems and lower surface of leaflets ± densely hairy, appearing whitish; racemes c. 12-flowered.Desmodium nemorosum
Stems and lower surface of leaflets mostly sparsely hairy or ± glabrous, not appearing whitish; racemes 10–100-flowered.
                       Back to 8
Desmodium heterocarpon
10Leaves with terminal petiolule similar to lateral ones, ≤1 mm long; leaflets ± rhombic and truncate at the apex or rarely broad-obovate or rounded.Desmodium gunnii
Leaves with terminal petiolule longer than lateral ones, usually 2–4.5 mm long; leaflets lanceolate, oblong or oblanceolate.
                       Back to 8
Desmodium varians

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