A very polymorphic species, it has been variously treated by botanists in the past. We are following the treatment by Ohashi, H. 1991. Taxonomic studies in Desmodium heterocarpon (L.) DC. (Leguminosae). Journal of Japanese Botany 66: 14-25 which treats it in a wide sense with 5 subspecies[
Desmodium birmanicum Prain
Desmodium buergeri Miq.
Desmodium heterocarpum (L.) DC.
Desmodium heterophyllum buergeri (Miq.) Hosok.
Desmodium oblongum Kurz p.p.
Desmodium ovalifolium (Prain) Wallich ex Ridley
Desmodium ovalifolium Merr.
Desmodium polycarpum (Poir.) DC.
Desmodium reticulatum pilosum Craib
Desmodium siliquosum (Burm.f.) DC.
Desmodium toppinii Schindl.
Hedysarum heterocarpon L.
Hedysarum polycarpum Poir.
Hedysarum siliquosum Burm.f.
Meibomia buergeri (Miq.) Kuntze
Meibomia heterocarpa (L.) Kuntze
Meibomia reticulata (Benth.) Kuntze
Desmodium heterocarpon is an aggressively creeping, stoloniferous perennial plant that can grow from 30 - 150cm tall, producing dense stands. The stems are much-branched, especially at their base and usually become quite woody[
The plant is harvested from the wild for local use as a medicine. It can be used as a ground cover under trees, where it stabilizes and restores the soil.
E. Asia - China, Japan, Indian subcontinent, Myanmar, Thailand, Cambodia, Laos, Vietnam, Malaysia, Indonesia, Philippines, New Guinea, Australia, Paci
Grasslands, grassy slopes, watersides, thickets, forests; at elevations from 300 - 1,800 metres[
|Other Uses Rating||
|Cultivation Status||Cultivated, Wild
A plant of the moist tropics and subtropics, where it is found at elevations up to 1,000 metres. It grows best in areas where annual daytime temperatures are within the range 14 - 24°c, but can tolerate 4 - 34°c[
]. It prefers a mean annual rainfall in the range 2,000 - 3,000mm, but tolerates 1,000 - 4,000mm, and a weak dry season of no more than 3 - 4 months[
Prefers light shade, doing well in full sun and tolerating quite deep shade[
]. Tolerant of a wide range of soils, succeeding in low fertility and able to grow with high levels of aluminium or manganese[
]. Plants have a good tolerance of waterlogging and periodic inundation of the soil[
]. Prefers a pH in the range 4.5 - 6.5, tolerating 4 - 7[
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 escape from cultivation and become naturalized[
Seedling growth is slow. Once established, however, it is a very long-lived legume which can persist for over 10 years regardless of grazing management[
The plant can be self- or cross-pollinating - it selfs when flowers are tripped[
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[
The whole plant is used medicinally for reducing fever and for treating contusions and strains[
The plant produces a heavy, matty growth in open sandy areas, making it useful as a weed-controlling ground cover[
The plant is used as a cover crop for erosion and weed control in tree plantations, with the potential for use as a green manure[
It has possible use in agro-forestry systems due to its shade tolerance and comparatively shallow rooting. It can be used for cut-and-carry and for the restoration of degraded soils[
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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