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Desmodium uncinatum - (Jacq.) DC

Common Name Silverleaf desmodium. Spanish tick-clover
Family Fabaceae
USDA hardiness 10-12
Known Hazards None Known
Habitats It is a subtropical plant. In Argentina it grows from sea level to 1,000 m above sea level.
Range Americas.
Edibility Rating    (0 of 5)
Other Uses    (3 of 5)
Weed Potential Yes
Medicinal Rating    (0 of 5)
Care (info)
Tender Well drained soil Moist Soil Wet Soil Semi-shade Full sun
Desmodium uncinatum Silverleaf desmodium. Spanish tick-clover

Desmodium uncinatum Silverleaf desmodium. Spanish tick-clover
wikimedia.org Harry Rose


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Sown in permanent grazing pastures but also used for cut-and-carry, for green or conserved feed, for ground cover and in cropping for intercropping and mulch. As a carbon farming solutions plant it can be used in agroforestry for nitrogen, as an understory legume.

Physical Characteristics

 icon of manicon of flower
Desmodium uncinatum is an evergreen Perennial growing to 2 m (6ft) 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 and can grow in nutritionally poor soil. Suitable pH: mildly acid and neutral soils and can grow in very acid soils.
It can grow in semi-shade (light woodland) or no shade. It prefers dry moist or wet soil and can tolerate drought.

UK Hardiness Map US Hardiness Map


Desmodium uncinatum var. gracile Burkart. Desmodium uncinatum var. uncinatum. Hedysarum uncinatum Jacq. Meibomia uncinata (Jacq.) Kuntze

Plant Habitats

Edible Uses

None Known

References   More on Edible Uses

Medicinal Uses

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None Known

References   More on Medicinal Uses

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Other Uses


Grown in association with tussock and more open sward-forming grasses in permanent, semi-intensively managed pastures. Sown in permanent grazing pastures but also used for cut-and-carry, for green or conserved feed, for ground cover and in cropping for intercropping and mulch. Abundant leaf fall and runner decay provide a deep duff layer under the plants[415]. Carbon Farming Solutions - Agroforestry Services: nitrogen, understory legume (Agroforestry is a land use management system in which trees or shrubs are grown around or among crops or pastureland). Fodder: pasture.

Special Uses

Carbon Farming

References   More on Other Uses

Cultivation details

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

Climate: tropical. Humidity: humid. Generally grows best on lighter and more friable soils of moderate fertility, but not on heavy clays. It is more tolerant of low pH , high Al and Mn than ‘Greenleaf’ (D. intortum ) but cannot stand salinity. More tolerant of poor drainage and high water tables than ‘Greenleaf’. Prefers rainfall exceeding 1,000mm with good distribution throughout the year [415]. Although not productive during the dry season, it will persist in regions with dry seasons of 3 months. It can persist in areas with rainfall as low as 850 mm and as high as 2,400 mm. With its stronger taproot , D. uncinatum proved decidedly more drought tolerant than D. intortum . It will grow in wet soils and tolerate short term flooding. It is a warm season plant but with good tolerance of cooler conditions. Peaks of growth occur in spring and autumn with a slight depression in the heat of mid-summer. Generally grown at moderate altitudes (to 2,000 m) in the tropics and lower altitudes in the subtropics. It is one of the most cool-tolerant tropical legumes although leaves are damaged or killed by frost. It is moderately tolerant of shaded conditions [415]. 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: 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

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Plant Propagation

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

Other Names

If available other names are mentioned here

Silverleaf desmodium, Spanish clover, Spanish tick-clover, Tick clover, Velcro plant, Desmodium, Silver leaf desmodium, Silverleaf, silver-leaved desmodium, Spanish tickclover, Velcro vine, Velcro weed, Spanischer Klee (German); Desmodio plateado (Spanish); Pega pega (Spanish).

Native to South America (i.e. Venezuela, Brazil, Bolivia, Peru, northern Argentina, Paraguay and Uruguay). Naturalised in many parts of eastern Australia (i.e. in south-eastern and northern Queensland and in the coastal districts of northern and central New South Wales). Now locally naturalised elsewhere in the highland tropics and humid subtropics.

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.

Desmodium uncinatum was introduced as a fodder crop and has now become a weed of creekbanks (i.e. riparian areas), roadsides, fencelines, forest margins, disturbed sites, waste areas and plantation crops (e.g. sugarcane). It is regarded as an important environmental weed in south-eastern Queensland, and was recently ranked among the top 100 invasive plants species in the region. It is also regarded as an environmental weed in the New South Wales North Coast region. It spreads into forest margins and along creeks where it trails over shrubs and groundcovers, but it does not climb into trees. It has also been reported to ensnare and kill native wildlife (e.g. frogs, birds, lizards and microbats) that easily become stuck to its stems and fruit.

Conservation Status

IUCN Red List of Threatened Plants Status : This taxon has not yet been assessed

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 intortumPega-pega. BeggarlicePerennial1.5 10-12 FLMHFSNMWe003
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

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.


Expert comment


(Jacq.) DC

Botanical References

Links / References

For a list of references used on this page please go here
A special thanks to Ken Fern for some of the information used on this page.

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