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Desmodium intortum - (Mill.) Urb.

Common Name Pega-pega. Beggarlice
Family Fabaceae
USDA hardiness 10-12
Known Hazards None Known
Habitats A weed of riparian vegetation, forest margins, open wooodlands, roadsides, disturbed sites and waste areas.
Range Mesoamerica. Native to Mexico, Central America, the Caribbean and South America.
Edibility Rating    (0 of 5)
Other Uses    (3 of 5)
Weed Potential Yes
Medicinal Rating    (0 of 5)
Care (info)
Tender Moist Soil Wet Soil Full shade Semi-shade Full sun
Desmodium intortum Pega-pega. Beggarlice

Forest Starr & Kim Starr starrenvironmental.com
Desmodium intortum Pega-pega. Beggarlice
Forest Starr & Kim Starr starrenvironmental.com


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A long-lived prostrate, scrambling vine with stems up to 1.5 m long with a strong taproot. Occasionally a semi-upright shrubby plant growing 0.5m tall.

Physical Characteristics

 icon of manicon of flower
Desmodium intortum is an evergreen Perennial growing to 1.5 m (5ft) by 0.2 m (0ft 8in) at a fast rate.
See above for USDA hardiness. It is hardy to UK zone 10.
It can fix Nitrogen.
Suitable for: light (sandy), medium (loamy) and heavy (clay) soils. Suitable pH: mildly acid and neutral soils and can grow in very acid soils.
It can grow in full shade (deep woodland) semi-shade (light woodland) or no shade. It prefers moist or wet soil.

UK Hardiness Map US Hardiness Map


Desmodium galapagense B.L. Rob. Desmodium hjalmarsonii (Schindl.) Standl. Desmodium trigonum DC. Desmodium sinclairii Benth. Desmodium trigonum DC. Hedysarum intortum Mill. Hedysarum trigonum Sw. Meibomia intorta (Mill.) S.F.Blake. Meibomia trigona F.W.Gandara. Meibomia hjalmarsonii Schindl.

Plant Habitats

Edible Uses

None Known

References   More on Edible Uses

Medicinal Uses

Plants For A Future can not take any responsibility for any adverse effects from the use of plants. Always seek advice from a professional before using a plant medicinally.

None Known

References   More on Medicinal Uses

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Other Uses


Long-term and irrigated pastures for hay and silage - provides good standover feed during autumn and winter in frost-free areas. Very palatable and tends to be heavily grazed. Cut-and-carry systems, and as ground cover. DM yields range from 12 to 19 t/ha/year, which is higher than silverleaf desmodium (7-9 t DM/ha/year). Better yields are obtained with longer cutting intervals of 30-85 days [418]. A good groundcover covering the soil in 4 months. It has been used as ground cover on coffee plantations. Carbon Farming Solutions - Agroforestry Services: nitrogen, understory legume. Fodder: pasture (Agroforestry is a land use management system in which trees or shrubs are grown around or among crops or pastureland).

Special Uses

Carbon Farming

References   More on Other Uses

Cultivation details

Agroforestry Services: Contour hedgerow  Agroforestry Services: Nitrogen  Agroforestry Services: Understory legume  Fodder: Pasture  Management: Fodder  Minor Global Crop

Climate: tropical, tropical highlands. Humidity: semi-arid to humid. Desmodium intortum will grow on a wider range of soils than will D. uncinatum , from sands, light loams to medium clays, but prefers moderate fertility and pH above 5.0. Not tolerant of salinity or high Al and Mn. Requires >900mm rainfall with a moderate dry season of less than 6 months, but will grow under much wetter conditions (>3,000 mm). Tolerance to waterlogging or flooding is better than D. uncinatum . Withstands hot weather better than D. uncinatum. Frost-susceptible. Optimum growth at 30/25°C ±3°C. Good shade tolerance. Carbon Farming Solutions - Cultivation: minor global crop. Management: fodder (Describes the non-destructive management systems that are used in cultivation) [1-1].

Carbon Farming

  • Agroforestry Services: Contour hedgerow  Alley cropping systems on the contour of slopes.
  • Agroforestry Services: Nitrogen  Plants that contribute to nitrogen fixation include the legume family – Fabaceae.
  • Agroforestry Services: Understory legume  Legume vegetation, especially the trees and shrubs growing between the forest canopy and the forest floor.
  • Fodder: Pasture  Enclosed tracts of farmland mainly of grasses, with an interspersion of legumes and other forbs (non-grass herbaceous plants).
  • Management: Fodder  Non-destructive management systems maintaining the soil organic carbon.
  • Minor Global Crop  These crops are already grown or traded around the world, but on a smaller scale than the global perennial staple and industrial crops, The annual value of a minor global crop is under $1 billion US. Examples include shea, carob, Brazil nuts and fibers such as ramie and sisal.

References   Carbon Farming Information and Carbon Sequestration Information

Temperature Converter

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Plant Propagation

Seed germinates quickly (3-4 days) without scarification.

Other Names

If available other names are mentioned here

Greenleaf desmodium, Beggarlice, Greenleaf tick trefoil, Tickclover; Grünes desmodium (German); Pega pega, Amor seco, Desmodio verde (Spanish); Desmodie (French); Karikuy-ritkuk (Philippines); Thua kleen leap (Thailand).

Native to:Mesoamerica: Belize, Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Mexico, Nicaragua, Panama. Caribbean: Hispaniola, Jamaica, Puerto Rico. South America: Colombia, Ecuador, Peru, Venezuela, and in a restricted area of Brazil between 18 and 25°S. Now naturalised in small areas of higher altitude tropics and the humid subtropics [415].

Weed Potential

Right plant wrong place. We are currently updating this section. Please note that a plant may be invasive in one area but may not in your area so it’s worth checking.

Can be invasive in all it's growing areas. Regarded as an environmental weed in Queensland and northern New South Wales, Australia. It is mainly of concern in riparian vegetation, due to its shade tolerance and its ability to climb over other plants. This species was recently ranked among the 200 most invasive plants in south-eastern Queensland.

Conservation Status

IUCN Red List of Threatened Plants Status : Status: Least Concern

Related Plants
Latin NameCommon NameHabitHeightHardinessGrowthSoilShadeMoistureEdibleMedicinalOther
Desmodium canadenseShowy tick-trefoilPerennial0.9 3-6 FLMHSNDM003
Desmodium caudatum Shrub1.5 -  LMHNM011
Desmodium cinereumRensoni. TickcloverPerennial2.0 9-11 FLMHNMWe004
Desmodium elegans Shrub1.5 5-9  LMHNM022
Desmodium glutinosumPointed-leaved TicktrefoilPerennial0.9 3-9 FLMSNM003
Desmodium paniculatumPanicled tick trefoilPerennial1.0 4-10 FLMHSNDM003
Desmodium styracifoliumGuang Jing Qian Cao, Coin-leaf desmodiumPerennial0.8 0-0  LMHNM02 
Desmodium triflorumThree-flower beggarweed, Three-flower tick-trefoilAnnual/Perennial0.2 10-12 FLMHFSNM022
Desmodium uncinatumSilverleaf desmodium. Spanish tick-cloverPerennial2.0 10-12 FLMHSNDMWe003

Growth: S = slow M = medium F = fast. Soil: L = light (sandy) M = medium H = heavy (clay). pH: A = acid N = neutral B = basic (alkaline). Shade: F = full shade S = semi-shade N = no shade. Moisture: D = dry M = Moist We = wet Wa = water.


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(Mill.) Urb.

Botanical References

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