Vascular Plants of North Carolina
Account for Pointedleaf Tick-trefoil - Hylodesmum glutinosum   (Muhlenberg ex Willdenow) H. Ohashi & R.R. Mill
Members of Fabaceae:
Members of Hylodesmum with account distribution info or public map:
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Section 6 » Family Fabaceae
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Author(Muhlenberg ex Willdenow) H. Ohashi & R.R. Mill
DistributionThroughout the Mountains, but onnly widely scattered in the Piedmont and northern half of the Coastal Plain. Absent from the majority of the southern Coastal Plain (including the Sandhills region) and some far eastern counties.

This is a widespread Eastern species, occurring from eastern Canada south to the FL Panhandle and eastern TX. However, it is scarce from DE south to most of FL (i.e., the Atlantic Coastal Plain and Piedmont).
AbundanceUncommon to fairly common in the central and southern Mountains, but rare to locally uncommon in the northern Mountains and northwestern Piedmont (east along the VA line to Caswell County). Very rare over most of the rest of the Piedmont and the northern and central Coastal Plain (south to Jones County).
HabitatThis is a tick-trefoil (formerly it was in the genus Desmodium) that grows essentially in rich forests -- in the Mountains mostly in Rich Cove Forests and eastward mostly in Basic Mesic Forests. It clearly favors moist and high pH soils, and is a species of shade, seldom if ever found in sunny places.
PhenologyBlooms from June to August, and fruits from August to October.
IdentificationThis is a distinctive legume species and should be easily identified by its leaflets. It grows to 1-2 feet tall (not counting the flowering stalk), and has a naked stem to about 6-12 inches, above which grow several large leaves coming off the same node. Each leaf has 3 leaflets, with the terminal leaflet being rotund to widely ovate but with a strongly acuminate tip (thus the leaflet has concave sides toward the tip); this leaflet is 2-3 inches long and about as wide. The two lateral leaflets are much smaller and ovate, with a sharp tip, and about 1.5-2 inches long. From this same single node grows the slender flowering stalk, with scattered pink flowers about 1/4-inch long, on the 1-1.5 foot tall stalk. No other plant shows several leaves with 3 leaflets coming off a stalk at a single node, especially with the terminal leaflet on each leaf looking a bit top-like in shape. To see this plant you likely will need to visit a rich forest in the mountains; farther east, it is so sparse that you may need to visit a known site, as it is very difficult to find by visiting rich slopes in the Piedmont and Coastal Plain.
Taxonomic CommentsUntil recently, this species was included in the genus Desmodium, but most if not all of them recognize that this species, along with the former D. nudiflorum and D. pauciflorum, are different enough from the others that they belong in the genus Hylodesmum.

Other Common Name(s)Heartleaf Tick-trefoil, Clusterleaf Tick-trefoil, Large Tick-trefoil
State RankS2? [S3]
Global RankG5
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B.A. SorrieUwharrie NF, mesic rocky slope near Cirsium carolinianum, 27 May 2018. Flower buds developing. MontgomeryPhoto_natural
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