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Desmodium spp.

Common Name(s):
Beggars lice, Hitch hikers, Tick's clover, Tick-trefoil
Herbs, Native Plants, Perennials, Wildflowers

Desmodium spp., commonly known as Beggars lice is a woody trailing legume in the Fabaceae family.  There are dozens of species and there is indecision in the taxonomic world in defining the genus.  This plant can be used as a living mulch or green manure as they are able to improve soil fertility via nitrogen fixation.   They can also be used as livestock fodder.   The hairy seedpods readily cling to fur and clothing so both animals and humans unwittingly spread their seeds.  They germinate readily and can become weedy.

This herb produces a triangular seed that sticks like a tick.

Regions:  Mountain, Piedmont, Coastal Plains

Seasons of Interest: 

  Blooms:  Late summer            Nut/Fruit/Seed:  Fall

Wildlife Value:    They make a quality food source for bobwhite, turkey, grouse, and deer.  It is moderately resistant to damage from deer.  This plant is a host plant for the Silver-spotted Skipper, Hoary Edge, Northern Cloudywing, Southern Cloudywing, Gray Hairstreak, and Eastern tailed-blue butterflies.  In the winter, its seeds serve as a food source for songbirds, quail, and small mammals. The flowers are attractive to some pollinators.



Beggars lice has alternate, trifoliate, compound leaves, light green above and whitish green below, which have prominent veins with fine hooked hairs. Leaflets are up to 3½" long and 1" across, lanceolate-oblong or lanceolate-ovate, with smooth margins, and a leathery texture. The base of a leaflet is rounded, while the tip is usually blunt.
The central stem of the Beggars lice flower terminates in an elongated raceme of pale purple or white flowers about ½–1½' long. Usually, only a few flowers are in bloom at the same time.
Herbaceous perennial
Beggars lice does best in fertile loam or clay loam soil.
Legume seed pod
food, host plant, small mammals, weedy, drought tolerant, wildlife, songbirds, butterflies

NCCES plant id: 3334

Desmodium spp. Desmodium spp.
Tyrrhium, CC BY - 2.0