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Beggars Lice Desmodium

Phonetic Spelling
des-MOH-dee-um
Description

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.

Beggarlice, Genus Desmodium, are herbaceous perennials that may grow 2 to 4 feet tall. The leaves are alternate and trifoliate with hooked hairs on the underside. Flowers vary in color from white to violet. The herb produces a triangular seed that sticks like a tick.

Fire Risk: This plant has a low flammability rating.

Regions:  Mountain, Piedmont, Coastal Plains

Seasons of Interest: 

  Blooms:  Late summer            Nut/Fruit/Seed:  Fall

 

 

Cultivars / Varieties:
Tags:
#butterflies#songbirds#wildlife plant#wildflowers#host plant#small mammals#food source#NC native#native wildflower#larval host plant#food source fall#pollinators
 
Cultivars / Varieties:
Tags:
#butterflies#songbirds#wildlife plant#wildflowers#host plant#small mammals#food source#NC native#native wildflower#larval host plant#food source fall#pollinators
  • Attributes:
    Genus:
    Desmodium
    Family:
    Fabaceae
    Life Cycle:
    Perennial
    Recommended Propagation Strategy:
    Seed
    Fire Risk Rating:
    low flammability
    Wildlife Value:
    They make a quality food source for bobwhite, turkey, grouse, and 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.
    Particularly Resistant To (Insects/Diseases/Other Problems):
    fire in the landscape, moderately resistant to damage from deer, drought tolerant
    Edibility:
    Edible
  • Whole Plant Traits:
    Plant Type:
    Herb
    Native Plant
    Perennial
    Wildflower
    Leaf Characteristics:
    Deciduous
  • Cultural Conditions:
    Light:
    Full sun (6 or more hours of direct sunlight a day)
    Partial Shade (Direct sunlight only part of the day, 2-6 hours)
    Soil Texture:
    Clay
    Loam (Silt)
    Soil Drainage:
    Moist
    Occasionally Dry
    NC Region:
    Coastal
    Mountains
    Piedmont
  • Fruit:
    Fruit Color:
    Green
    Fruit Value To Gardener:
    Edible
    Display/Harvest Time:
    Fall
    Fruit Type:
    Legume
    Fruit Description:
    Legume hairy seed pod in triangular form which readily clings to fur and clothing so both animals and humans unwittingly spread their seeds. They germinate readily and can become weedy.
  • Flowers:
    Flower Color:
    Purple/Lavender
    White
    Flower Inflorescence:
    Raceme
    Flower Bloom Time:
    Summer
    Flower Size:
    1-3 inches
    Flower Description:
    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. Flowers are attractive to some pollinators. Blooms in late summer.
  • Leaves:
    Leaf Characteristics:
    Deciduous
    Leaf Color:
    Green
    Leaf Feel:
    Leathery
    Leaf Value To Gardener:
    Edible
    Leaf Type:
    Compound (Pinnately , Bipinnately, Palmately)
    Leaf Arrangement:
    Alternate
    Leaf Shape:
    Lanceolate
    Oblong
    Ovate
    Hairs Present:
    Yes
    Leaf Length:
    3-6 inches
    Leaf Width:
    < 1 inch
    Leaf Description:
    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.
  • Stem:
    Stem Is Aromatic:
    No
  • Landscape:
    Attracts:
    Butterflies
    Pollinators
    Small Mammals
    Songbirds
    Resistance To Challenges:
    Fire
    Problems:
    Weedy