Desmodium glutinosum (Pointed-leaf Tick-trefoil)

Plant Info
Also known as: Large-flower tickclover
Family:Fabaceae (Pea)
Life cycle:perennial
Habitat:part shade, shade; woods, thickets
Bloom season:June - August
Plant height:1 to 4 feet
Wetland Indicator Status:none
MN county distribution (click map to enlarge):Minnesota county distribution map
National distribution (click map to enlarge):National distribution map

Pick an image for a larger view. See the glossary for icon descriptions.

Detailed Information

Flower: Flower shape: irregular Cluster type: raceme

[photo of flowers] Clusters of stalked flowers at the top of the stem and arising from upper leaf axils, each cluster branched or not, the flowers in pairs and loosely arranged on the stem. Flowers are about ¼ inch long and wide, with a round upper lobe and 3 narrow lower lobes, the middle one folded lengthwise. Hugging the inside of the upper lobe are a long curving white style and yellow-tipped stamens. Flower color is pink, occasionally white. The calyx and flower stalk are typically red and sparsely glandular hairy.

Leaves and stem: Leaf attachment: alternate Leaf type: compound

[photo of compound leaf] Leaves are compound in 3s, just below the flower clusters, alternately attached but often crowded and nearly whorled. Leaflets are up to 5 inches long, 3½ inches wide, sparsely hairy, oval to teardrop shaped with a sharply pointed tip. The terminal leaf is largest and much broader than the lateral leaflets, sometimes wider than long. Stems are erect to ascending, unbranched, may be sparsely covered in spreading hairs, and are somewhat sticky from glandular hairs.

Fruit: Fruit type: capsule/pod

[photo of fruit] Fruit is a flat pod divided into 1 to 4 segments, each straight to concave on the upper edge and well rounded on the lower, and each containing a single seed.

[photo of seed] Seeds are shaped like a half heart, narrowed at one end, about 7 mm long, and mature to golden yellow. The pod is covered in minute hooked hairs so it sticks to almost anything that passes by.


Pointed-leaf Tick-trefoil and American Lopseed (Phryma leptostachya) are both common woodland species, have loosely arranged racemes of tiny pink flowers and bloom at the same time in about the same habitat, sometimes next to each other. American Lopseed has coarsely toothed, simple leaves oppositely attached, the upper lobe of the flowers is narrow, turned up, and the fruit is a seed than points down and hugs the stem. Also similar is the related (and very rare) Naked-flower Tick-trefoil (Desmodium nudiflorum or Hylodesmum nudiflorum), which has terminal leaflets longer than broad and not as sharply pointed, pod segments more triangular in shape, and the flowering stem is completely separated from the leafy stems. Some references have renamed Desmodium glutinosum to Hylodesmum glutinosum; this name is not currently recognized in Minnesota but may be in the future.

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More photos

Photos by K. Chayka taken at Wild River State Park, Chisago County, and in Ramsey County. Other photos courtesy Peter M. Dziuk.


Have you seen this plant in Minnesota, or have any other comments about it?

Posted by: Susan K
on: 2009-07-11 07:55:06

There are clusters of this plant on the Luce Line Trail. The largest one I have seen on my morning runs is in Orono close to the sign for Woodrill Nature area on the Luce Line. It is currently in bloom and the flowers are small and beautiful.

Posted by: Alison - St. Paul, MN
on: 2010-07-09 10:44:49

This plant can be found in Lilydale Regional Park in St. Paul, MN.

Posted by: Amy - Woodbury, Washington County
on: 2010-07-11 22:45:23

In bloom with White Pointed-leaf Tick-treefoil along Wilmes Lake on walking trail near Interlachen Pkwy. in Woodbury.

Posted by: Denise - Rollag Lakes area
on: 2010-07-25 14:48:50

We have been trying to identify this plant for a long time. Thank you for this great website! This plant has increasingly been acting like an invasive species in our woods. This year the plants are huge and thick. The pretty pinkish flowers give way to seeds that stick to everything. Our smaller more delicate woodland flowers hardly have a prayer.

Posted by: Linda - Washington County
on: 2011-07-07 16:43:36

This plant is currently in bloom in many spots in Sunfish Lake Regional Park.

Posted by: Kara - Credit River Township (Scott County)
on: 2012-06-23 14:20:30

I have this plant blooming along my woodland edges. It is quite pretty and glad I finally discovered a native flower instead of an invasive species.

Posted by: bruce - minnetonka
on: 2014-07-13 11:36:36

I found two of these next to each other on my wooded lot in partly shaded area.

Posted by: Jackie - Washington County
on: 2014-07-26 10:28:44

This plant is in bloom in a shady area on our property in West Lakeland Township.

Posted by: Lin - Crow Wing County near Lake Roosevelt
on: 2015-08-02 14:13:03

This lovely plant is growing in a wooded area near our cabin in Crow Wing County. The leaves are a broad and heart shaped and resemble poison ivy. I am glad to see that it is a forest plant and NOT poisonous.

Posted by: luciearl - Lake Shore, MN
on: 2017-07-10 21:40:36

For years I've been calling this American Lopseed, now just realizing it is not. I have both American Lopseed and Pointed-leaf Tick Trefoil (what a long name!) growing next to each other on my hill.

Posted by: Linda S - Garrison Township Crow Wing County
on: 2017-07-12 16:44:31

I have found this in a wooded area in Garrison Township and it is a very pretty, delicate plant. It reminds me of a mini orchid. My question is if this is an invasive due to the sticky seeds attaching to everything. Thanks for your feedback! Linda

Posted by: K. Chayka
on: 2017-07-12 17:46:52

Linda, the term "invasive" is generally reserved for exotic species; we don't normally use it to describe natives. In the case of Desmodium, the sticky pods help it move around but it does not create dense monocultures and crowd out other plants like an invasive species would. In its natural habitat there is sufficient competition to prevent that.

Posted by: Michelle - Cannon City
on: 2019-09-16 18:16:00

This plant is along the creek at Caron Park in Rice County. In this second week of September, the leaves are turning yellow.

Posted by: Kate Knauff - Credit River, Scott County
on: 2020-06-30 21:39:47

I have this beauty volunteering it's presence in my wild east garden. Truly enjoyable to see.

Posted by: Ellen S - Maria Lake State Park
on: 2020-07-07 17:52:09

These are beautiful. We found them blooming on the hiking trails at Maria Lake State Park.

Posted by: Jamie Robertson - Leaf River Township, Wadena County
on: 2020-07-11 00:11:26

blooming in July in wooded areas of Leaf River township.

Posted by: maurice spangler - Hubbard County--Henrietta township
on: 2020-07-31 11:43:07

These are in shade along the walking trails in our woods. The woods consist primarily of oak and aspen with some red pines. Blooming on July 30, 2020

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