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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.


Distribution and occurrence: World: c. 50 species, tropical & subtropical regions. Australia: c. 5 species (most species naturalised), all mainland States.

The circumscription of the genus has been greatly reduced in recent years based on molecular data requiring the genus to be split greatly to recognise monophyletic genera. The placement of a few Australian species is yet to be determined and they are here retained under Desmodium, however only introduced taxa are likely to remain there.

Text by C. Gardner & T. A. James; updated by R.L. Barrett, Sept. 2019
Taxon concept:

 Key to the species 
1Leaves 1-foliolate; bracts filiform.Pleurolobus gangeticus
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.Pedleya acanthoclada
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.Desmodiopsis campylocaulon
Pod articles flat; leaflets smaller and/or less elongate.
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5
5Leaflets hairy on both surfaces.6
Leaflets ± glabrous on upper surface.
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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.Oxytes brachypoda
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.Grona nemorosa
Stems and lower surface of leaflets mostly sparsely hairy or ± glabrous, not appearing whitish; racemes 10–100-flowered.
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Grona heterocarpa
10Leaves with terminal petiolule similar to lateral ones, ≤1 mm long; leaflets ± rhombic and truncate at the apex or rarely broad-obovate or rounded.Pullenia 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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