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Useful Tropical Plants

Desmodium tortuosum

(Sw.) DC.

Fabaceae

+ Synonyms

Desmodium purpureum (Mill.) Fawc. & Rendle

Desmodium stipulaceum DC.

Hedysarum purpureum Mill.

Hedysarum tortuosum Sw.

Meibomia purpurea (Mill.) Vail

Meibomia stipulacea (DC.) Kuntze

Meibomia tortuosa (Sw.) Kuntze

Common Name: Beggarweed

Desmodium tortuosum
Leaves and ripening seedpods
Photograph by: Forest and Kim Starr
Creative Commons License
Desmodium tortuosum Desmodium tortuosum Desmodium tortuosum Desmodium tortuosum Desmodium tortuosum Desmodium tortuosum

General Information

Beggarweed is of variable habit, growing as an erect, often much-branched, annual or perennial herb or as a shrub; it can grow from 50 - 200cm tall[
310
Title
Plant Resources of Southeast Asia
Publication
 
Author
 
Website
http://proseanet.org/
Publisher
 
Year
0
ISBN
 
Description
Lots of information on the uses of the plants of SE Asia.
].
The plant is cultivated, or being trialled, as a green manure or cover crop in several countries of America, Africa and Australia[
317
Title
Mansfeld's Database of Agricultural and Horticultural Plants
Publication
 
Author
 
Website
http://mansfeld.ipk-gatersleben.de/pls/htmldb_pgrc/f?p=185:3:4292127278597336
Publisher
 
Year
0
ISBN
 
Description
Terse details of a huge range of useful plants.
]. Its importance seems to be waning[
317
Title
Mansfeld's Database of Agricultural and Horticultural Plants
Publication
 
Author
 
Website
http://mansfeld.ipk-gatersleben.de/pls/htmldb_pgrc/f?p=185:3:4292127278597336
Publisher
 
Year
0
ISBN
 
Description
Terse details of a huge range of useful plants.
].

Known Hazards

None known

Botanical References

266
Title
Flora of China
Publication
 
Author
 
Website
http://flora.huh.harvard.edu/china/
Publisher
Missouri Botanical Garden Press; St. Louis.
Year
1994
ISBN
 
Description
An excellent, comprehensive resource in 25 volumes. In addition to the botanical information the flora also gives basic information on habitat and some uses. An on-line version is also available.
,
315
Title
Flora of Barro Colorado Island
Publication
 
Author
Croat. Thomas B.
Website
http://biogeodb.stri.si.edu/bioinformatics/croat/home
Publisher
Stanford University Press
Year
1978
ISBN
0-8047-0950-5
Description
A very good flora of an area in Panama. Written some years ago, so some of the names have been changed. The book is out of print, but the whole flora is now available on the web.
,
331
Title
Flora of Guatemala
Publication
 
Author
Standley P.C. & J. A. Steyermark
Website
http://www.archive.org/
Publisher
 
Year
1946 - 1976
ISBN
 
Description
A superb reference, though somewhat dated. Gives lots of plant uses as well as information on plant habit and habitat. The entire flora (13 volumes) can now be downloaded from http://www.archive.org/

Range

S. America - Argentina, north through Brazil, Peru, to Central America to Mexico, southern USA.

Habitat

Moist or dry thickets, often in rocky places, frequently along rocky or sandy stream beds; at elevations up to 1,200 metres[
331
Title
Flora of Guatemala
Publication
 
Author
Standley P.C. & J. A. Steyermark
Website
http://www.archive.org/
Publisher
 
Year
1946 - 1976
ISBN
 
Description
A superb reference, though somewhat dated. Gives lots of plant uses as well as information on plant habit and habitat. The entire flora (13 volumes) can now be downloaded from http://www.archive.org/
]. Naturalized in disturbed areas, cultivated fields and grassland, on sandy or calcareous soils in coastal areas[
310
Title
Plant Resources of Southeast Asia
Publication
 
Author
 
Website
http://proseanet.org/
Publisher
 
Year
0
ISBN
 
Description
Lots of information on the uses of the plants of SE Asia.
].

Properties

Weed PotentialYes
Other Uses Rating *  *
HabitPerennial
Height1.50 m
PollinatorsInsects
Cultivation StatusCultivated

Cultivation Details

Suitable for tropical and subtropical climates[
46
Title
Dictionary of Economic Plants.
Publication
 
Author
Uphof. J. C. Th.
Publisher
Weinheim
Year
1959
ISBN
-
Description
An excellent and very comprehensive guide but it only gives very short descriptions of the uses without any details of how to utilize the plants. Not for the casual reader.
].

Because of the abundant small uncinate hairs on most species, the seedpods cling most tenaciously to clothing, to any part of the human body, and also to the feathers and hair of various animals, thus ensuring a wide dispersal of the plants[
331
Title
Flora of Guatemala
Publication
 
Author
Standley P.C. & J. A. Steyermark
Website
http://www.archive.org/
Publisher
 
Year
1946 - 1976
ISBN
 
Description
A superb reference, though somewhat dated. Gives lots of plant uses as well as information on plant habit and habitat. The entire flora (13 volumes) can now be downloaded from http://www.archive.org/
]. This species is known to have escaped from cultivation and become naturalized - it is classified as invasive in many areas[
305
Title
Pacific Island Ecosystems at Risk
Publication
 
Author
 
Website
http://www.hear.org/pier/scientificnames/index.html
Publisher
 
Year
0
ISBN
 
Description
A very good website detailing weed species that have been introduced into the Pacific Islands.
].
This species has a symbiotic relationship with certain soil bacteria; these bacteria form nodules on the roots and fix atmospheric nitrogen. Some of this nitrogen is utilized by the growing plant but some can also be used by other plants growing nearby[
755
Title
Nodulation Plants in GRIN Taxonomy
Publication
 
Author
 
Website
http://www.ars-grin.gov/~sbmljw/cgi-bin/taxnodul.pl?language=en
Publisher
United States Department of Agriculture
Year
0
ISBN
 
Description
An online database listing plants that have either positive or negative reports on root and stem nodulation with nitrogen-fixing bacteria.
].

Edible Uses

None known

Medicinal

None known

Agroforestry Uses:

Grown as a green manure and cover crop, covering the ground quickly and competing well with weeds[
310
Title
Plant Resources of Southeast Asia
Publication
 
Author
 
Website
http://proseanet.org/
Publisher
 
Year
0
ISBN
 
Description
Lots of information on the uses of the plants of SE Asia.
]. It is appreciated in coconut plantations in Tamil Nadu, India[
310
Title
Plant Resources of Southeast Asia
Publication
 
Author
 
Website
http://proseanet.org/
Publisher
 
Year
0
ISBN
 
Description
Lots of information on the uses of the plants of SE Asia.
].

Other Uses

None known

Propagation

Seed - best sown as soon as it is ripe. Stored seed develops a hard seedcoat and may benefit from scarification before sowing in order to speed up and improve germination. This can usually be done by pouring a small amount of nearly boiling water on the seeds (being careful not to cook them!) and then soaking them for 12 - 24 hours in warm water. By this time they should have imbibed moisture and swollen - if they have not, then carefully make a nick in the seedcoat (being careful not to damage the embryo) and soak for a further 12 hours before sowing.
The seed usually germinates within 1 - 4 months at 25°c. Prick out the seedlings into individual pots once they are large enough to handle and grow them on until large enough to plant out.
Cuttings of half-ripe wood with a heel.
Division. Larger clumps can be replanted direct into their permanent positions, though it is best to pot up smaller clumps and grow them on until they are rooting well.
Root cuttings.

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