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
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[
The plant is cultivated, or being trialled, as a green manure or cover crop in several countries of America, Africa and Australia[
]. Its importance seems to be waning[
S. America - Argentina, north through Brazil, Peru, to Central America to Mexico, southern USA.
Moist or dry thickets, often in rocky places, frequently along rocky or sandy stream beds; at elevations up to 1,200 metres[
]. Naturalized in disturbed areas, cultivated fields and grassland, on sandy or calcareous soils in coastal areas[
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Suitable for tropical and subtropical climates[
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[
]. This species is known to have escaped from cultivation and become naturalized - it is classified as invasive in many areas[
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[
Grown as a green manure and cover crop, covering the ground quickly and competing well with weeds[
]. It is appreciated in coconut plantations in Tamil Nadu, India[
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.
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