Vascular Plants of North Carolina
Account for Pine-barren Tick-trefoil - Desmodium strictum   (Pursh) de Candolle
Members of Fabaceae:
Members of Desmodium with account distribution info or public map:
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Section 6 » Order Fabales » Family Fabaceae
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Author(Pursh) de Candolle
DistributionOccurs over nearly all of the Coastal Plain, though most widespread in the southwestern quarter, especially the Sandhills region. A few scattered records for the northeastern Piedmont, and a few in the southwestern Piedmont. Absent from the mountains and nearly all of the Piedmont.

This is essentially a Coastal Plain species, ranging north to NJ and south to southern FL and west to LA.
AbundanceCommon in the Sandhills region and nearby areas in the southwestern quarter of the Coastal Plain. Fairly common elsewhere in the southeastern Coastal Plain and north to about Halifax County; rare in the far eastern and northeastern counties. Very rare in the Piedmont portion of the range.
HabitatThis is a Desmodium of sandy soils, and it favors xeric pine/scrub oak sandhills to any other habitat. It also occurs in other sandy openings and clearings, in Turkey Oak (Quercus laevis) scrub, and other sunny and very dry places.
PhenologyBlooms from July to August, and fruits from September to October.
IdentificationThis is one of three Desmodium species in NC with very narrow leaflets; this and D. tenuifolium occur essentially in the Coastal Plain, and the currently historical D. sessilifolium in the Piedmont. Whereas the last of these has leaves essentially sessile, in the first two species the leaves are distinctly petiolate, though in D. strictum the petiole is only about 1/4-inch long. The 3 leaflets are very narrow and linear, about 1.5 inches long but barely 1/8-inch wide. The narrow stem is erect and reaches about 2-3 feet tall, with some hairiness along the stem. The inflorescences are quite long and open panicles in axils and at the end of the stem, with many tiny pink flowers, each about 1/3-inch long. In this species the "top" (suture margin) of the pod is essentially straight, such that each of the loment segments is flat on one side and quite rounded on the "bottom". In D. tenuifolium, the loment segments are somewhat rounded at the top, as well as strongly so at the bottom. Habitats of the two are different, as D. strictum favors quite dry and sandy habitats, whereas D. tenuifolium is a wetland plant of savannas, wet pine flatwoods, streamheads, and seepages. Walking though various sandy habitats in the Sandhills region should allow you to become familiar with this reasonably common species, and you probably do not need the pods present for identification, as long as the plant or plants are clearly in an upland and dry setting.
Taxonomic CommentsNone

Other Common Name(s)Pineland Tick-trefoil
State RankS3? [S4]
Global RankG4
State Status
US Status
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Photo Gallery
B.A. SorrieSame area, early Oct 2009. RichmondPhoto_natural
B.A. SorrieSandhills Game Land, xeric longleaf upland, Sept 2009. RichmondPhoto_natural

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