Vascular Plants of North Carolina
Account for Velvety Tick-trefoil - Desmodium viridiflorum   (L.) de Candolle
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Section 6 » Order Fabales » Family Fabaceae
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Author(L.) de Candolle
DistributionOccurs statewide, found in essentially all Piedmont counties (through specimens), and likely is present in all 100 counties, unless absent in the northern mountains.

This is a somewhat Southeastern species, ranging from NJ and eastern PA, south to central FL and eastern TX; however, it is mostly absent from Great Lakes states plus WV.
AbundanceCommon in the Piedmont and most of the western and central Coastal Plain, including the Sandhills region. Uncommon in the southern and central mountains, as well as in the eastern Coastal Plain.
HabitatThis Desmodium grows in typical places for most genus members -- dry woodland borders, roadbanks, powerline clearings, and other dry and brushy places.
PhenologyBlooms from July to September, and fruits from August to October.
IdentificationThis is a distinctive Desmodium in its quite "velvety" look. It has an erect stem often to 3-4' tall (somewhat more robust than others in the genus), with many hairs along the stem, some uncinate (hooked). It is fairly well branched, and the 3 leaflets are quite wide for members of the genus, being widely ovate to almost rhombic (diamond-shaped), the terminal one about 3-4" long, and about 2.5-3" wide, only slightly narrower than long. The lateral leaflets are usually much smaller and a bit more ovate. These leaflets are strongly hairy above with many uncinate hairs, as well as soft velvety below. The top side of each leaflet can be stuck onto your clothing like a badge! D. nuttallii has the same type of velvety leaves with a "Velcro" top side, but in that species the leaves are more ovate -- especially the terminal one -- and barely 1/2 as wide as long. The several panicles of flowers contain fairly large pink flowers, each about 1/3" across, among the largest in the genus. There are several differences between it and D. nuttallii regarding the pods; however, the wider leaflets in this species, almost as wide as long, and shape of the terminal leaflet -- practically rhombic in shape -- should be sufficient for identification. This is one of the more frequently seen Desmodium species in the Piedmont and much of the Coastal Plain, probably findable on most any day of walking in the appropriate woodland border and edge habitats.
Taxonomic CommentsNone. In the past, a few other species have been subsumed within D. viridiflorum.

Other Common Name(s)Velvetleaf Tick-trefoil
State RankS4? [S5]
Global RankG5?
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