Desmodium humifusum

Common Names:
spreading tick-trefoil, tick trefoil, trailing tick-trefoil
(Muhl.) Beck
Growth Habit:
CPC Number:
Profile Contributors:
Elizabeth J. Farnsworth
Fully Sponsored

Reference Links

ITIS - Tropicos - USDA Plants - Fish & WildLife

Participating Institutions

The following Participating Institutions are custodians for this species in the CPC National Collection:
New England Wild Flower Society

The conservation of Desmodium humifusum is fully sponsored.
Elizabeth J. Farnsworth contributed to this Plant Profile.


Desmodium humifusum is a prostrate, trailing, perennial herb in the pea family. It is found in dry, sandy, inland forests, ranging from Massachusetts south to Pennsylvania and west to Indiana. Once known from 35 herbarium collections from 19 sites in the northeast, the number of populations has declined, and the species is now ranked as historic in several states: Delaware, Maryland, New Jersey, and New York. Reasons for its demise are largely unknown, but conversion of its habitat, which is conducive to home building, is a likely cause. Its status as a true species or as a hybrid form remains to be resolved, but recent molecular evidence indicates that it is a likely hybrid of Desmodium paniculatum and Desmodium rotundifolium.

This species takes its name, "humifusum" from the words for "earth/ground/soil" (humi) and for "spread out or extended" (fusum), which describe it well. It trails along the ground, with prostrate, hairy stems reaching 1 to 2 m (3.26 to 6.5 ft) in length. "Trefoil" is a French expression referring to its compound groups of three leaves (hairy on both sides) that branch off the stem on slender petioles 2.5 to 5 cm (1 to 2 in) long. Seven to nine small, purple flowers are produced on racemes in July and August.

Distribution & Occurrence


Conservation, Ecology & Research