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

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Detailed Information

Flower: Flower shape: irregular Cluster type: raceme

[photo of flowers] Stalked flowers are scattered on spike-like racemes branching off the top of the stem. Individual 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 leaves] Several long-stemmed compound leaves, grouped in 3s, are just below the flower clusters, alternately attached but nearly whorled. Leaflets are up to 5 inches long, 3½ inches wide, sparsely hairy, oval to teardrop shaped with a sharply pointed tip. The end leaf is largest and much broader than the side leaflets. Stems are erect to ascending, unbranched, may be sparsely covered in spreading hairs, and somewhat sticky.

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 1 seed. 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) both have pink spike-like racemes 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. Some references have renamed Desmodium glutinosum to Hylodesmum glutinosum; this name is not currently recognized in Minnesota but may well be in the future.

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More photos

Photos by K. Chayka taken at Wild River State Park, Chisago County, and Vadnais/Snail Lake Regional Park, Ramsey County.


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.

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