Desmodium canadense

A native bushy ticktrefoil with small but showy magenta flowers

Desmodium canadense showy ticktrefoil

Plant grows in the wild/spontaneouslyPlant is native to PA

This flower belongs to my 'be it ever so humble' group of wildflowers. You normally have to look closely to find this tiny but pretty little late summer wildflower. The plant is a bushy native perennial and a member of the pea family. The flowers do resemble small pea flowers with pink or rose-purple or magenta blossoms in clusters at the top of a hairy, leafy stem.

The individual flowers are about ½ inch long on a stalk 3/8 inch long. Each flower has an upper and lower petal. Initially these are folded up like a keel, but eventually open up, beginning with the upper petal. At the center of the flower is a patch of dark pink. From this area a curved tube emerges that contain the stigmas and pistil. The flowers have no scent.

Most of the many tick trefoil species in this area have very tiny flowers and this species is the showiest of the group, especially if the plant is healthy and growing in colonies. The stems are usually hairy. The leaves are clover-like with 3 long oval toothless leaflets. Each of these leaflets is about 3 inches long.

The hairy seedpods that form have 3 to 5 joints. One-seeded segments break off when mature and stick to fur or clothing. This species grows in moist open woods, in the edge of woods, or in thickets. The plant can be 2-6 feet tall and blooms in July and August. Often the stems bend over to a more horizontal direction and it may be tangled in other vegetation. It is often damaged by Japanese beetles and the foliage is eaten by most wild herbivores.

In early America settlers used it as animal fodder. It is found in southern Canada and northeast and central United States. It is also called the Canadian tick trefoil.

Contributed by: Mark Welchley

Frequent in open woods.

Present throughout the state.

Wetland codes

Flowers July to September.

S-rank:  No Rank
G-rank:  G5 (Secure)

Desmodium canadense showy ticktrefoil

Plant grows in the wild/spontaneouslyPlant is native to PA
Desmodium canadense gallery
Plant Life-Form
perennial forb
Common Names
showy ticktrefoil Canada ticktrefoil