Velvet Leaf Tick Trefoil
Desmodium viridiflorum (Linnaeus) A.P.
Fabaceae (Bean) Family


Velvet-leaf Tick Trefoil is a native herbaceous perennial in the Bean family (Fabaceae). It occurs throughout Alabama. Velvet-leaf Tick Trefoil occurs in dry to mesic hardwood forests, in pine woodlands, in sandhills, on roadsides, and in forest openings and edges. It is a perennial with a tap root. The root crown produces 1-5 upright to sprawling stems that are from 3-6 feet in height. The stems are pubescent and have hooked hairs; stems are green to brown in color.

The leaves are alternate, petiolate, and trifoliate. The leaflets are ovate to rhombic or deltoid in outline, moderately pubescent above and velvety pubescent below. The margins are entire and both surfaces of the leaf have hooked hairs.

The flowers are produced in an open panicle. The branches of the panicle are pubescent and have hooked hairs. Flowers are papilionaceous in shape (resembles a small butterfly) and lavender in color. The standard petal has two spots of white and yellow at its base. The flowers become blue in color as they age.

Fruit is a loment (segmented pod) with 4-6 segments; one seed per segment; pubescent with hooked hairs.

Velvet-leaf Tick Trefoil is one of the larger members of the genus in Alabama. Plants are commonly called “beggar’s lice” because of the fruit segments that adhere to clothing or fur with their hooked hairs.

The foliage of Velvet-leaf Tick Trefoil is browsed by deer and the seed are eaten by Bobwhite Quail and other birds.

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