Vascular Plants of North Carolina
Account for Smooth Tick-trefoil - Desmodium laevigatum   (Nuttall) de Candolle
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Section 6 » Order Fabales » Family Fabaceae
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Author(Nuttall) de Candolle
DistributionStatewide, and likely occurs in all 100 counties. The lack of records in the far northeastern counties seems to be due to a scarcity of collecting of this genus, as southeastern VA has records for nearly all counties nearby.

This is still another widespread Desmodium species of the eastern states, ranging from NJ and MO on the north to northern FL and eastern TX on the south.
AbundanceCommon over the mountains, Piedmont, and most of the Coastal Plain, but seemingly scarce in the northeastern and far eastern counties.
HabitatThis species occurs in open upland woods, along dry to mesic woodland borders, and in other dry places. It tends to grow more frequently in open woods and glade-like places than some others and not be quite as weedy as some species.
PhenologyBlooms from June to September, and fruits from August to October.
IdentificationThis is a rather easy species of Desmodium to identify. It is an erect species and reaches about 2.5-3 feet tall like many others, but it has a waxy smooth stem, essentially devoid of hairs. The leaves (3 leaflets like others in the genus) are generally ovate in shape with nearly pointed tips, with the three leaflets being almost the same size; they average about 2.5-3 inches long, with the terminal one slightly larger than the others. However, in this species the leaves are quite smooth, and more importantly, the undersides are quite glaucous (very pale bluish-green). It has several panicled inflorescences, of bright pink flowers, each about 1/3-inch across. Thankfully, observers do not need flowers or fruit (pods) for identification -- the waxy smooth stem, quite smooth leaves, and the whitish undersides of the leaves should clinch the identification. Thankfully, it is often seen on walks in upland woods, especially along their margins.
Taxonomic CommentsNone

Other Common Name(s)None
State RankS5
Global RankG5
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