Vascular Plants of North Carolina
Account for Tall Tick-trefoil - Desmodium glabellum   (Michaux) de Candolle
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Section 6 » Order Fabales » Family Fabaceae
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Author(Michaux) de Candolle
DistributionEssentially statewide, though as with most species of Desmodium, there has been a general lack of interest in making collections of them, and range maps are spotty and show gaps.

This species ranges across much of the eastern US, from CT and IA south to central FL and eastern TX. Most records are from VA and MO southward.
AbundanceCommon to fairly common statewide, though possibly less numerous in the southern Coastal Plain.
HabitatThis species has the typical Desmodium habitats -- borders and edges of dry to mesic woods, woodland openings, old fields, powerline clearings, and other clearings. Occurs along trails in maritime forests on the Outer Banks.
PhenologyBlooms from June to September, and fruits from August to October.
IdentificationThis is the standard Desmodium -- erect, of medium height (about 3 feet tall), and with some branches with numerous leaves (3 leaflets). The stem is rather smooth, but typically does have some hairs, mostly uncinate (hooked) ones and not long pilose ones; the stem is not obviously hispid. The leaf petioles are about 1-1.5 inches long, and are also smooth to uncinate. The leaflets are mostly ovate, with the terminal one being about 2.5 inches long and not quite as wide; the lateral leaves are somewhat smaller. All leaves have rounded tips. The leaflets do have some hairs above and below, with those above commonly being uncinate on the veins. The inflorescences are terminal and some axillary, being panicles of numerous small pink flowers, each about 1/5-inch long. This species is very similar to another "typical" Desmodium -- the well-named D. perplexum. This latter species has the stem and leaf petiole hairs quite long and dense (pilose but not hooked), and the upper surfaces of the leaflets are occasionally uncinate-puberulent (lightly hairy) on the veins (Weakley 2018). There are a few slight differences in the shape of the pods. These are two of the most commonly seen Desmodium species when you are doing field work along wooded margins, in powerline clearings, or in other brushy places where legumes and composites grow. A careful check of the stem, better if done with a hand lens, should give you a proper identification.
Taxonomic CommentsA few references seem to throw up their hands and lump this or other species into the already very large D. paniculatum. Most do treat this as a good species.

Other Common Name(s)Dillenius' Tick-trefoil, Dillen's Tick-trefoil, Smooth Tick-trefoil
State RankS5
Global RankG5
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US Status
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B.A. SorriePiedmont, roadside powerline N of Carthage, early Sept 2014. MoorePhoto_natural
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