Invasive Species Compendium

Detailed coverage of invasive species threatening livelihoods and the environment worldwide

Datasheet

Desmodium incanum
(creeping beggerweed)

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Datasheet

Desmodium incanum (creeping beggerweed)

Summary

  • Last modified
  • 21 November 2019
  • Datasheet Type(s)
  • Invasive Species
  • Host Plant
  • Preferred Scientific Name
  • Desmodium incanum
  • Preferred Common Name
  • creeping beggerweed
  • Taxonomic Tree
  • Domain: Eukaryota
  •   Kingdom: Plantae
  •     Phylum: Spermatophyta
  •       Subphylum: Angiospermae
  •         Class: Dicotyledonae
  • Summary of Invasiveness
  • Originally from New World tropics and subtropics, D. incanum is a perennial shrub that was promoted as a forage crop around the world, with further accidental spread. Although it has some value as forage, it is no longer highly regarded...

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Pictures

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PictureTitleCaptionCopyright
Desmodium incanum (creeping beggerweed, Spanish clover); flowers. Makawao, Maui, Hawaii, USA. April, 2008.
TitleFlowers
CaptionDesmodium incanum (creeping beggerweed, Spanish clover); flowers. Makawao, Maui, Hawaii, USA. April, 2008.
Copyright©Forest & Kim Starr-2008 - CC BY 3.0
Desmodium incanum (creeping beggerweed, Spanish clover); flowers. Makawao, Maui, Hawaii, USA. April, 2008.
FlowersDesmodium incanum (creeping beggerweed, Spanish clover); flowers. Makawao, Maui, Hawaii, USA. April, 2008.©Forest & Kim Starr-2008 - CC BY 3.0
Desmodium incanum (creeping beggerweed, Spanish clover); flowering habit. Makawao, Maui, Hawaii, USA. April, 2008.
TitleFlowering habit
CaptionDesmodium incanum (creeping beggerweed, Spanish clover); flowering habit. Makawao, Maui, Hawaii, USA. April, 2008.
Copyright©Forest & Kim Starr-2008 - CC BY 3.0
Desmodium incanum (creeping beggerweed, Spanish clover); flowering habit. Makawao, Maui, Hawaii, USA. April, 2008.
Flowering habitDesmodium incanum (creeping beggerweed, Spanish clover); flowering habit. Makawao, Maui, Hawaii, USA. April, 2008.©Forest & Kim Starr-2008 - CC BY 3.0
Desmodium incanum (creeping beggerweed, Spanish clover); close-up of leaves. Kipahulu LZ Haleakala National Park, Maui, Hawaii, USA. February, 2009.
TitleLeaves
CaptionDesmodium incanum (creeping beggerweed, Spanish clover); close-up of leaves. Kipahulu LZ Haleakala National Park, Maui, Hawaii, USA. February, 2009.
Copyright©Forest & Kim Starr-2009 - CC BY 3.0
Desmodium incanum (creeping beggerweed, Spanish clover); close-up of leaves. Kipahulu LZ Haleakala National Park, Maui, Hawaii, USA. February, 2009.
LeavesDesmodium incanum (creeping beggerweed, Spanish clover); close-up of leaves. Kipahulu LZ Haleakala National Park, Maui, Hawaii, USA. February, 2009.©Forest & Kim Starr-2009 - CC BY 3.0
Desmodium incanum (creeping beggerweed, Spanish clover); flowers and developing seedpods. Kipahulu LZ Haleakala National Park, Maui, Hawaii, USA. February, 2009.
TitleFlowers and developing seedpods
CaptionDesmodium incanum (creeping beggerweed, Spanish clover); flowers and developing seedpods. Kipahulu LZ Haleakala National Park, Maui, Hawaii, USA. February, 2009.
Copyright©Forest & Kim Starr-2009 - CC BY 3.0
Desmodium incanum (creeping beggerweed, Spanish clover); flowers and developing seedpods. Kipahulu LZ Haleakala National Park, Maui, Hawaii, USA. February, 2009.
Flowers and developing seedpodsDesmodium incanum (creeping beggerweed, Spanish clover); flowers and developing seedpods. Kipahulu LZ Haleakala National Park, Maui, Hawaii, USA. February, 2009.©Forest & Kim Starr-2009 - CC BY 3.0
Desmodium incanum (creeping beggerweed, Spanish clover); burs stuck to trouser legs and boot laces. Piiholo, Maui, Hawaii, USA. August, 2013.
TitleBurs stuck to trousers and boots
CaptionDesmodium incanum (creeping beggerweed, Spanish clover); burs stuck to trouser legs and boot laces. Piiholo, Maui, Hawaii, USA. August, 2013.
Copyright©Forest & Kim Starr-2013 - CC BY 3.0
Desmodium incanum (creeping beggerweed, Spanish clover); burs stuck to trouser legs and boot laces. Piiholo, Maui, Hawaii, USA. August, 2013.
Burs stuck to trousers and bootsDesmodium incanum (creeping beggerweed, Spanish clover); burs stuck to trouser legs and boot laces. Piiholo, Maui, Hawaii, USA. August, 2013.©Forest & Kim Starr-2013 - CC BY 3.0

Identity

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Preferred Scientific Name

  • Desmodium incanum DC.

Preferred Common Name

  • creeping beggerweed

Other Scientific Names

  • Aeschynomene incana (SW.) G. Mey.
  • Aeschynomene spicata Poir.
  • Desmodium canum (J.F. Gmel.) Schinz & Thell.
  • Desmodium frutescens Schindl.
  • Desmodium frutescens var. amblyophyllum (Urb.) Schindl.
  • Desmodium incanum var. supinum (DC.) Hooker & Arnott
  • Desmodium portoricense (Spreng.) G.Don
  • Desmodium supinum (Sw.) DC.
  • Desmodium supinum var. amblyophyllum Urb.
  • Hedysarum canescens Mill.
  • Hedysarum canum J.F. Gmel.
  • Hedysarum incanum Sw.
  • Hedysarum racemiferum J.F. Gmel.
  • Hedysarum racemosum Aubl.
  • Hedysarum supinum Sw.
  • Meibomia adscendens var. incana (Sw.) Kuntze
  • Meibomia cana S. F. Blake
  • Meibomia incana (Sw.) Vail
  • Meibomia supina (Sw.) Britton

International Common Names

  • English: beggar's lice; creeping beggarweed; kaimi-clover; Spanish clover; tick trefoil; wild peanut; zarzabacoa comun
  • Spanish: pega-pega; zarzabacoa comun
  • French: colle-colle; gros treff; gros trefle; herb gallon; pois madame
  • Portuguese: amor-de-campo; carrapicho-beico-de-boi; pega-pega

Local Common Names

  • Cook Islands: piripiri
  • Dominican Republic: amor seco
  • Lesser Antilles: sweethearts
  • Madagascar: famalakantsy; pelatsifotra; savisaha; tialamba
  • Marshall Islands: lattil pako
  • USA/Hawaii: ka'imi

Summary of Invasiveness

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Originally from New World tropics and subtropics, D. incanum is a perennial shrub that was promoted as a forage crop around the world, with further accidental spread. Although it has some value as forage, it is no longer highly regarded. Its main value lies in its nitrogen-fixing ability (for intercropping). D. incanum is regarded as weedy both within and outside of its native range. It occupies roadsides, rough places, pastures, unplanted grasslands, volcanic soils and in dry to wet areas with low stature vegetation. It is an occasional problem in coffee, banana and rice crops. D. incanum is able to withstand and thrive with frequent herbicidal treatments, grazing, cultivation and fire. Its dispersal is mediated by sticky seeds, which can adhere to people, animals and machinery, making it a nuisance. It is able to compete and persist well with other dominant grasses, including invasive ones. Its spreading (scrambly) low stature habit helps it to both dominate other low vegetation and to persist within it. It could also carry pests and diseases of legume crops such as peanut. 

Taxonomic Tree

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  • Domain: Eukaryota
  •     Kingdom: Plantae
  •         Phylum: Spermatophyta
  •             Subphylum: Angiospermae
  •                 Class: Dicotyledonae
  •                     Order: Fabales
  •                         Family: Fabaceae
  •                             Subfamily: Faboideae
  •                                 Genus: Desmodium
  •                                     Species: Desmodium incanum

Notes on Taxonomy and Nomenclature

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The most commonly used synonym in the literature is Desmodiumcanum but this was the result of the incorrect use of an illegitimate basionym (Nicolson, 1978). Sometimes the authority for D. incanum is given as (Sw.) DC, but this is also incorrect. That name refers to a different taxon which is either Desmodium mauritianum (ILDIS, 2013) or Desmodium ramosissimum; these being synonyms of each other.

Desmodium comes from the Greek word desmos which means a bond or chain. Kaimi (correctly Ka’imi) clover, the Hawaiian name for the plant, means 'seeker'. The other English names, which refer to lice and ticks, relate to the sticky seeds that stick to clothes and pets like those pests. The number of common names for the plant in Madagascar implies that it is a common, well-known plant there (ILDIS, 2013).

Description

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The following description is from Wagner et al. (1999):

Prostrate, ascending, or erect subshrubs or shrubs up to 1 m tall; stems pubescent with spreading hooked and longer straight hairs, glabrate. Leaves trifoliolate, leaflets subcoriaceous, usually elliptic or narrowly elliptic, terminal one 4-9 cm long, 1.5-4.5 cm wide, lateral nerves conspicuous, upper surface with minute hooked and straight hairs, lower surface densely appressed pubescent, apex obtuse or often acute, petioles 1-4 cm long. Flowers numerous in racemose inflorescences 5-12 cm long, rachis densely pubescent with minute hooked hairs, pedicels 3-10 mm long, persistent after articles fall, pubescent with minute hooked hairs; corolla pink to purplish, 5-6 mm long. Pods stipitate, (3) 4-5 (-8)-jointed, (2-) 2.5-3 (-4) cm long, densely pubescent with hooked hairs, articles nearly semicircular, 4-5 mm long, ca. 3 mm wide.

The following description is from Acevedo-Rodríguez (2005):

Decumbent or scandent herb, much branched from the woody base, attaining 1-1.5 m in length. Stems more or less cylindrical, appressed pubescent or pilose, glabrescent with age. Leaves alternate, trifoliolate; leaflets 3-9 × 0.8-3.8 cm, elliptical, oblong, ovate, lanceolate, or exceptionally rounded, chartaceous, involute, the apex obtuse or acute, mucronate, the base obtuse or rounded, the margins entire; upper surface dark green, puberulent; lower surface grayish green, strigulose, with prominent venation; petiolules 1.5-3 mm long, pilose; petioles 0.7-3 cm long, pilose, canaliculate; rachis 3-10 mm long, pilose, canaliculate; stipules ovate to lanceolate, 6-10 mm long, persistent; stipels minute, subulate. Inflorescences of terminal pseudoracemes, 10-18 cm long, pubescent; bracts minute, persistent. Calyx green, campanulate, 2.5-3 mm long, strigulose; corolla pink or pink-violet, the standard ovate, 5-6 mm long, retuse, unguiculate at the base, the wings and the keel as long as the standard. Legume uncinate-pubescent, 2-4 cm long, crenate on the ventral suture, with 5-8 fertile segments. Seeds 2.5-3.5 mm long, oblong elliptical, light brown. 

Plant Type

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Herbaceous
Perennial
Seed propagated
Shrub
Vegetatively propagated

Distribution

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D. incanum is native to Mexico, Central America, the Caribbean and South America. Some accounts report that the species is native in Florida and Texas (Green et al., 2008; ILDIS, 2013), although important databases with expert input for the flora regard it as introduced (Wunderlin and Hansen, 2012; USDA-NRCS, 2013). It is not clear whether the plant is native in Galapagos (Simbaña and Tye, 2009).  

Distribution Table

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The distribution in this summary table is based on all the information available. When several references are cited, they may give conflicting information on the status. Further details may be available for individual references in the Distribution Table Details section which can be selected by going to Generate Report.

Last updated: 17 Feb 2021
Continent/Country/Region Distribution Last Reported Origin First Reported Invasive Reference Notes

Africa

CameroonPresentIntroduced
ComorosPresentIntroduced
Congo, Democratic Republic of thePresentIntroduced
Equatorial GuineaPresentIntroduced
GabonPresentIntroduced
GuineaPresentIntroduced
LiberiaPresentIntroduced
MadagascarPresent
MaliPresentIntroduced
RéunionPresentIntroducedInvasive
São Tomé and PríncipePresentIntroduced
SeychellesPresentIntroduced
-Aldabra IslandsPresentIntroduced
Sierra LeonePresentIntroduced
South AfricaPresentIntroduced
TanzaniaPresentIntroduced
UgandaPresentIntroduced

Asia

IndiaPresentIntroduced
IndonesiaPresentPresent based on regional distribution.
-JavaPresentIntroduced
JapanPresentIntroducedInvasiveWild in Japan
Sri LankaPresentIntroduced

North America

Antigua and BarbudaPresentNative
BarbadosPresentNative
BelizePresentNative
British Virgin IslandsPresentNative
Cayman IslandsPresentNative
Costa RicaPresentNative
CubaPresentNative
CuraçaoPresentNative
DominicaPresentNative
El SalvadorPresentNative
GrenadaPresentNative
GuadeloupePresentNative
GuatemalaPresentNative
HondurasPresentNative
JamaicaPresentNative
MartiniquePresentNative
MexicoPresent
MontserratPresentNative
NicaraguaPresentNative
PanamaPresentNative
Puerto RicoPresentNative
Saint Kitts and NevisPresentNative
Saint LuciaPresentNative
Saint Vincent and the GrenadinesPresent
Trinidad and TobagoPresentNative
U.S. Virgin IslandsPresentNative
United StatesPresentPresent based on regional distribution.
-FloridaPresent, WidespreadIntroducedInvasiveThroughout
-GeorgiaPresent, WidespreadIntroducedInvasiveSouthern coast, two counties
-HawaiiPresent, WidespreadIntroducedInvasiveAll main islands except Kahoolawe
-LouisianaPresentIntroducedShowed potential as fodder plant
-TexasPresent, WidespreadIntroducedInvasiveLimited distribution

Oceania

American SamoaPresent
AustraliaPresentPresent based on regional distribution.
-QueenslandPresent, LocalizedIntroducedInvasiveSpreading from small plantings
Cook IslandsPresent, WidespreadIntroducedInvasiveA very widespread, strong-stemmed creeping weed. A very persistent and difficult to control weed of gardens and horticultural plots
Federated States of MicronesiaPresent, WidespreadIntroducedInvasive
FijiPresent, WidespreadIntroducedInvasiveCultivated and invasive
French PolynesiaPresent, WidespreadIntroducedInvasive
GuamPresentIntroduced
KiribatiPresent, LocalizedIntroducedInvasiveLimited, on Tarawa
Marshall IslandsPresent, LocalizedIntroducedInvasive
NauruPresentIntroduced
New CaledoniaPresentIntroduced
NiuePresentIntroducedInvasiveOriginal citation: Space et al. (2004)
Norfolk IslandPresent, WidespreadIntroducedInvasiveWidespread weed of pastures and rough land
Northern Mariana IslandsPresent, LocalizedIntroducedInvasive
PalauPresentIntroducedInvasiveLow risk or only of agricultural concern
SamoaPresentIntroduced
Solomon IslandsPresentIntroducedInvasive
TongaPresentIntroducedInvasive
VanuatuPresentIntroduced
Wallis and FutunaPresentIntroducedInvasiveAdventive

South America

ArgentinaPresent
BoliviaPresentNative
BrazilPresentPresent based on regional distribution.
-MaranhaoPresent, WidespreadNativeInvasiveWeed of rice fields
-Mato GrossoPresent, WidespreadNativeInvasive
-Mato Grosso do SulPresent, WidespreadNativeInvasivekno
-ParaPresent, LocalizedNativeInvasiveWeed
-ParanaPresent
-Rio Grande do SulPresent
ColombiaPresentNative
EcuadorPresentNativeMainland and Galapagos
French GuianaPresentNative
GuyanaPresentNative
ParaguayPresentNativeCommon in sown pasture
PeruPresentNative
SurinamePresentNative
UruguayPresent, WidespreadNativeInvasiveIncreased in abundance after herbicide applied
VenezuelaPresentNative

History of Introduction and Spread

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The timing of the spread of the plant in the tropics including most oceanic islands is unclear. For a short period during the twentieth century it was promoted as a forage plant and may have been intentionally planted, but its use and promotion has diminished since (Jones and Bunch, 2003; ILDIS, 2013). With its seeds being such able hitchhikers on clothes, socks, legs, shoes, shoe-laces, animals, pets and livestock, in most case it is likely to have spread accidentally.

D. incanum was first noted on Round Island, Mauritius, in 1987, and was probably introduced during invasive animal and plant management efforts (C. Griffiths, University of Bristol, UK, personal communication, 2013; Griffiths et al., 2013). Today it is prolific and widespread on Round Island. Both the Aldabran giant and Radiata tortoises consume large quantities of this legume, and as a result it has changed its growth form, becoming more prostrate (and possibly occupying more space). Seed productivity, however, has fallen where tortoises continually graze this species (C. Griffiths, University of Bristol, UK, personal communication, 2013).

Introductions

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Introduced toIntroduced fromYearReasonIntroduced byEstablished in wild throughReferencesNotes
Natural reproductionContinuous restocking
Mauritius Mauritius 1987 Hitchhiker (pathway cause) Yes No Griffiths et al. (2013) Introduced by conservation management activities (Mauritius to Round island, Mauritius).

Risk of Introduction

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D. incanum is mostly spread via its sticky seeds and could easily be transported anywhere on people, camping equipment, pets, vehicles etc. It is known to be transported to new sites by conservation workers, for example on helicopter landing zones in relatively intact forest sites in Hawaii (Forest Starr, Starr Environmental, Hawaii USA, personal communication, 2013) and during invasive mammal eradication efforts on Round Island, Mauritius in 1987 (Griffiths et al., 2013). Spread via wool fleeces, hides or other animal products, is also possible.

Habitat

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D. incanum is known to occur in disturbed places on both inhabited and uninhabited islands of the Pacific (Whistler, 1998; Starr and Starr, 2006; Starr et al., 2006; US Forest Service, 2014). It tends to grow alongside trails and fence lines, but does not do well under the forest canopy (J. Beachy and S. Kaye, Big Island Invasive Species Committee, Hawaii USA, personal communication, 2013).

The plant occurs in important habitats in Florida, including pine rockland (Green et al., 2008), dry prairies (Orzell and Bridges, 2006), Cedar Key State Reserve (Amoroso and Judd, 1995) and in various protected areas (e.g. Hubbard and Judd, 2013) including the Castillo de San Marcos National Monument (Zomlefer and Giannasi, 2005). It is a significant weed along roads, trails and disturbed areas in Guana Tolomato Matanzas National Estuarine Research Reserve (E. Montgomery, Hawaii Invasive Species Council, Hawaii USA, personal communication, 2013). 

Habitat List

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CategorySub-CategoryHabitatPresenceStatus
Terrestrial
Terrestrial ManagedCultivated / agricultural land Principal habitat Harmful (pest or invasive)
Terrestrial ManagedCultivated / agricultural land Principal habitat Natural
Terrestrial ManagedCultivated / agricultural land Principal habitat Productive/non-natural
Terrestrial ManagedManaged forests, plantations and orchards Principal habitat Harmful (pest or invasive)
Terrestrial ManagedManaged forests, plantations and orchards Principal habitat Natural
Terrestrial ManagedManaged forests, plantations and orchards Principal habitat Productive/non-natural
Terrestrial ManagedManaged grasslands (grazing systems) Principal habitat Harmful (pest or invasive)
Terrestrial ManagedManaged grasslands (grazing systems) Principal habitat Natural
Terrestrial ManagedManaged grasslands (grazing systems) Principal habitat Productive/non-natural
Terrestrial ManagedIndustrial / intensive livestock production systems Principal habitat Harmful (pest or invasive)
Terrestrial ManagedIndustrial / intensive livestock production systems Principal habitat Natural
Terrestrial ManagedDisturbed areas Principal habitat Harmful (pest or invasive)
Terrestrial ManagedDisturbed areas Principal habitat Natural
Terrestrial ManagedUrban / peri-urban areas Principal habitat Harmful (pest or invasive)
Terrestrial ManagedUrban / peri-urban areas Principal habitat Natural
Terrestrial ManagedBuildings Principal habitat Harmful (pest or invasive)
Terrestrial ManagedBuildings Principal habitat Natural
Terrestrial Natural / Semi-naturalNatural forests Secondary/tolerated habitat Harmful (pest or invasive)
Terrestrial Natural / Semi-naturalNatural forests Secondary/tolerated habitat Natural
Terrestrial Natural / Semi-naturalNatural grasslands Principal habitat Harmful (pest or invasive)
Terrestrial Natural / Semi-naturalNatural grasslands Principal habitat Natural
Terrestrial Natural / Semi-naturalRocky areas / lava flows Principal habitat Harmful (pest or invasive)
Terrestrial Natural / Semi-naturalRocky areas / lava flows Principal habitat Natural
Terrestrial Natural / Semi-naturalArid regions Principal habitat Harmful (pest or invasive)
Terrestrial Natural / Semi-naturalArid regions Principal habitat Natural
LittoralCoastal areas Principal habitat Harmful (pest or invasive)
LittoralCoastal areas Principal habitat Natural

Hosts/Species Affected

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Banana, rice and pastures are the main crops for which D. incanum is a recognized weed. However, this species is usually one of a suite of problematic species rather than a principal problem (Bergin, 2003; Jones and Bunch, 2003; Isaac et al., 2007; Guglieri-Caporal et al., 2010; Mesquita et al., 2013). 

Host Plants and Other Plants Affected

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Plant nameFamilyContextReferences
Coffea arabica (arabica coffee)RubiaceaeMain
    Musa (banana)MusaceaeMain
      Oryza (rice (generic level))PoaceaeMain
        Poaceae (grasses)PoaceaeMain

          Biology and Ecology

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          Genetics

          The chromosome number is 2n = 22 (Young, 1940; Schifino-Wittmann, 2000). Hybrids with Desmodium uncinatum are possible (Chow and Crowder, 1973), but it is unclear whether they occur in the wild.

          Reproductive biology

          The plant is commonly pollinated by bees (or other generalist pollinators) and via self-fertilisation (Etcheverry et al., 2010). Flowers are diurnal and triggered explosively by tension created in the keel and wings of the flower. After the initial visit most of the pollen is released and few visits from bees are likely again (Alemán et al., 2014). Anthers of D. incanum dehisce in the mid-afternoon, with 14-15.2 hours of light in the glasshouse, and flowers can be tripped by insect pollinators. Even in the absence of pollinators, seed set can exceed 50% (Chow and Crowder, 1974). Reproduction is often via seeds, and dispersal via the stick tight adherence provided by its hairy Velcro-like seed pods (Mori and Brown, 1998). The plant can root from stems, and fragments of the tap root can resprout (University of Florida Nassau County Extension, 2013).

          Chemical and mechanical scarification and heating of seeds improves germination rates which were about 25% in one study (Franke and Baseggio, 1998).

          Physiology and phenology

          In warm tropical areas, D. incanum flowers and fruits all year round. Elsewhere in subtropical to temperate sites it may flower and fruit only in the warm season. Under high levels of herbivory it can adopt a more spreading prostate habit (C. Griffiths, University of Bristol, UK, personal communication, 2013).

          Associations

          D. incanum has symbiotic associations with root-nodulating nitrogen-fixing rhizobial bacteria Bradyrhizobium elkanii (Kuykendall et al., 1992; Menna et al., 2006; 2009).

          Environmental requirements

          D. incanum does not tolerate long periods of wet conditions, preferring well-drained soils, and can withstand fairly arid conditions. It is often regarded as a poor competitor, except under disturbed conditions with high light levels. 

          Natural Food Sources

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          Food SourceFood Source DatasheetLife StageContribution to Total Food Intake (%)Details
          Tilapia busumana Adult

          Climate

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          ClimateStatusDescriptionRemark
          A - Tropical/Megathermal climate Preferred Average temp. of coolest month > 18°C, > 1500mm precipitation annually
          Af - Tropical rainforest climate Tolerated > 60mm precipitation per month
          Am - Tropical monsoon climate Preferred Tropical monsoon climate ( < 60mm precipitation driest month but > (100 - [total annual precipitation(mm}/25]))
          As - Tropical savanna climate with dry summer Preferred < 60mm precipitation driest month (in summer) and < (100 - [total annual precipitation{mm}/25])
          Aw - Tropical wet and dry savanna climate Preferred < 60mm precipitation driest month (in winter) and < (100 - [total annual precipitation{mm}/25])
          C - Temperate/Mesothermal climate Preferred Average temp. of coldest month > 0°C and < 18°C, mean warmest month > 10°C
          Cf - Warm temperate climate, wet all year Preferred Warm average temp. > 10°C, Cold average temp. > 0°C, wet all year
          Cs - Warm temperate climate with dry summer Preferred Warm average temp. > 10°C, Cold average temp. > 0°C, dry summers
          Cw - Warm temperate climate with dry winter Preferred Warm temperate climate with dry winter (Warm average temp. > 10°C, Cold average temp. > 0°C, dry winters)

          Latitude/Altitude Ranges

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          Latitude North (°N)Latitude South (°S)Altitude Lower (m)Altitude Upper (m)
          30 30

          Natural enemies

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          Natural enemyTypeLife stagesSpecificityReferencesBiological control inBiological control on
          Acanthoscelides puelliopsis Herbivore Seeds not specific
          Aecidium Pathogen Leaves not specific
          Cercospora canescens Pathogen Leaves not specific
          Cladosporium oxysporum Pathogen Leaves not specific
          Desmodium mosaic virus Pathogen Whole plant not specific
          Meibomeus apicicornis Herbivore Seeds not specific
          Meibomeus mitchellii Herbivore Seeds not specific
          Meibomeus panamensis Herbivore Seeds not specific
          Meliola bicornis Pathogen Leaves not specific
          Meliola denticulata Pathogen Whole plant not specific
          mycoplasma-like organisms Pathogen Leaves not specific
          Oidium Pathogen Leaves not specific
          Peanut mottle virus Pathogen Whole plant not specific
          Peanut stunt virus Pathogen Whole plant not specific
          Phomopsis Pathogen Leaves not specific
          Pseudocercospora meibomiae Pathogen Leaves not specific
          Urbanus proteus Herbivore Leaves not specific
          Uromyces hedysari-paniculati Pathogen Leaves not specific

          Notes on Natural Enemies

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          Several genera of fungi and other plant pathogens have been shown to attack D. incanum, and other diseases are known to infest Desmodium spp., but no information is given about these species (Lenné and Stanton, 1990). Viruses include peanut mottle virus (Demski et al., 1981) and peanut stunt cucumovirus (Gillaspie Jr and Ghabrial, 1998). As such, the plant could harbour a number of diseases and pests that attack peanut crops. It is resistant to root-knotting nematodes and is a suggested source of resistance genes (Quesenberry et al., 2008). A few species of pea or bean weevils (genus Meibomeus) are known to feed on D. incanum (Romero and Johnson, 2002). Any predators, diseases or pests of peas and beans could potentially impact this species. Some generalist insect predators of beans, such as Urbanus proteus, are known to attack D. incanum, and there are probably many more of these than are documented here (Capinera, 2011). The seed beetle Acanthoscelides puelliopsis is a seed predator of D. incanum, and is from a group that is specialized on plants in the subfamily Papilionoideae (Johnson and Siemens, 1995).

          Pathway Causes

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          CauseNotesLong DistanceLocalReferences
          Animal productionStick-tight mechanism permits adherence to animals Yes Yes Mori and Brown, 1998
          ForageOften promoted as forage Yes Yes Demski et al., 1981; Schifino-Wittmann, 2000; Smith, 1995
          HitchhikerStick-tight seeds provide adherence Yes Yes Mori and Brown, 1998
          Hunting, angling, sport or racingIntroduced to Round Island, Mauritius, during mammal eradication Yes Yes Griffiths et al., 2013
          Landscape improvementLikely to be transported on clothing of workers Yes Yes Mori and Brown, 1998
          Nursery tradeIf promoted for forage and erosion control, it could be a weedy contaminant of other plants and soil Yes Yes
          People foragingSticky seeds provide the means to spread on clothes and equipment Yes Yes Mori and Brown, 1998
          Seed tradeForage of hydro-mulch seeds sold for planting could contain this species either as the main forage o Yes Yes

          Pathway Vectors

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          VectorNotesLong DistanceLocalReferences
          Hides, trophies and feathersSticky seeds could attach to furs, pelts etc. Yes Yes Mori and Brown, 1998
          Land vehiclesSticky seeds could attach to vehicles Yes Yes Mori and Brown, 1998
          LivestockSticky seeds could attach to furs, pelts etc. Yes Yes Mori and Brown, 1998
          Pets and aquarium speciesSticky seeds could attach to furs, pelts etc. Yes Yes Mori and Brown, 1998

          Plant Trade

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          Plant parts liable to carry the pest in trade/transportPest stagesBorne internallyBorne externallyVisibility of pest or symptoms
          Seedlings/Micropropagated plants Yes Yes Pest or symptoms usually invisible

          Economic Impact

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          D. incanum is frequently a significant component of productive grasslands, and is variously viewed as a secondary and valued forage or a weed both within and outside of its native range (Hacker et al., 1996; Jones and Bunch, 2003; Garbulsky and Deregibus, 2006; Guglieri-Caporal et al., 2010). Due to its nitrogen-fixing abilities it is possible that it has an impact on soil nutrient cycles (these could be viewed as positive or negative), but no studies quantify this, or any possible consequences to co-occurring species – not even in the studies of it as a forage. It is a common weed of slash and burn agriculture, and disturbed secondary vegetation (Dalle and de Blois, 2006; Mitja and Miranda, 2010; Randriamalala et al., 2012). It is widespread in many regions where it occurs, but rarely the most significant weed (e.g. Lárez Rivas, 2007). Some costs may be offset at the most minor scales by the benefits derived from its use as a diuretic and anti-inflammatory (Vargas et al., 1991).

          On the Big Island of Hawaii (USA), ranchers on (windward) Big Island welcome D. incanum in the pasture. It disappears after about two years of continuous cattle grazing, but comes back vigorously when the field is rested. It does well in a mix with California grass (Urochloa mutica), which also gives way to Paspalum conjugatum after a year or two without steady rotation. D. incanum is also controlled by mowing on coffee farms in the South Kona area of Big Island. 

          Some extension offices in universities and state government, as well as lawn management companies in North America, describe its identification, control and management as a lawn weed (e.g. University of Florida Extension Office, 2013).

          Environmental Impact

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          Impact on Habitats

          D. incanum is known to occur in disturbed places on both inhabited and uninhabited islands of the Pacific, and while it is often widespread, it is rarely more than locally abundant (Whistler, 1998; Starr and Starr, 2006; Starr et al., 2006; US Forest Service, 2014). The offshore islands and islets of Hawaii are mainly protected areas and provide a habitat for seabirds. It occurs in protected areas in Hawaii on Molokai at Kalaupapa National Historic Park (Medeiros et al., 1996) and on Maui in Haleakala National Park (Welton and Haus, 2008), but is simply listed with a suite of other invasive species and no negative impacts are attributed to it alone. This weed is occasionally controlled in Hawaii in conservation areas, where it is never a major component. It tends to grow alongside trails and fence lines, but does not do well under the forest canopy (J. Beachy and S. Kaye, Big Island Invasive Species Committee, Hawaii USA, personal communication, 2013). Its control is usually for its nuisance value and because conservation workers do not want to see it even as a trailside weed in more pristine areas. A congener Desmodium tortuosum is viewed as a more significant (and already widespread) problem in Hawaii (J. Beachy and S. Kaye, Big Island Invasive Species Committee, Hawaii USA, personal communication, 2013).

          The plant occurs in important habitats in Florida, including pine rockland (Green et al., 2008), dry prairies (Orzell and Bridges, 2006), Cedar Key State Reserve (Amoroso and Judd, 1995)and in various protected areas (e.g. Hubbard and Judd, 2013)including the Castillo de San Marcos National Monument (Zomlefer and Giannasi, 2005). It is a significant weed along roads, trails and disturbed areas in Guana Tolomato Matanzas National Estuarine Research Reserve but doesn’t overly compete with important species, or in relatively intact native plant communities (E. Montgomery, Hawaii Invasive Species Council, Hawaii USA, personal communication, 2013). It is widespread in the lower two-thirds of the state of Florida and is also documented in several of the northern counties (Wunderlin and Hansen, 2012), and so its occurrence in protected areas is unsurprising.

          Impact on Biodiversity

          D. incanum has been listed as co-occurring with important species of conservation concern in the Galapagos (Linum cratericola), where it may or may not be native (Simbaña and Tye, 2009). However, it is not described as a threat to these species. Similarly, it is listed as an invasive species in cockaded woodpecker (Picoides borealis) habitat on land used by the military for training, but is likely to pose little or no threat to the woodpecker or the vegetation upon which the woodpecker depends (Guertin and Tess, 2006). It is listed as one of many non-native species co-occurring with the threatened endemic species in Florida including Harrisia aboriginum, Argythamnia blodgettii and Indigoferatrita subsp. scabra (Bradley et al., 2004; Hodges and Bradley, 2006). The presumed mechanism for an impact is via competition, but no clear indication of it being a significant threat is given. In Hawaii, there is one instance where D. incanum threatens conservation values, where it (along with other non-native species) has invaded the West Maui population of Tetramolopium sylvae (Hank Oppenheimer, Maui Nui Plant Extinction Prevention Program, Hawaii USA, personal communication, 2013).

          Threatened Species

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          Threatened SpeciesConservation StatusWhere ThreatenedMechanismReferencesNotes
          Argythamnia blodgettiiNT (IUCN red list: Near threatened)FloridaCompetitionBradley et al., 2004
          Harrisia aboriginum (Aboriginal prickly-apple)NatureServe; USA ESA listing as endangered speciesFloridaCompetitionBradley et al., 2004
          Indigofera trita subsp. scabra (Asian Indigo)No DetailsFloridaCompetitionBradley et al., 2004
          Picoides borealisNT (IUCN red list: Near threatened)USAGuertin and Tess, 2006
          Tetramolopium sylvaeNatureServe; NatureServe; NatureServeHawaiiCompetition
          Schiedea spergulina var. leiopodaNational list(s); USA ESA listing as endangered speciesHawaiiCompetition - monopolizing resourcesUS Fish and Wildlife Service, 2010

          Social Impact

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          Mainly a scourge for parents who have to pick it out of their children’s socks (and their own), and it frequently attaches to shoe laces, and trouser bottoms. It is best described as a major nuisance.

          Conservation managers with awareness of the issue try not to spread weeds of any kind to pristine areas, and the diligence required can be time-consuming and stressful.

          Risk and Impact Factors

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          Invasiveness
          • Invasive in its native range
          • Proved invasive outside its native range
          • Has a broad native range
          • Abundant in its native range
          • Tolerates, or benefits from, cultivation, browsing pressure, mutilation, fire etc
          • Pioneering in disturbed areas
          • Highly mobile locally
          • Benefits from human association (i.e. it is a human commensal)
          • Long lived
          • Fast growing
          • Has high reproductive potential
          • Reproduces asexually
          Impact outcomes
          • Ecosystem change/ habitat alteration
          • Increases vulnerability to invasions
          • Modification of nutrient regime
          • Negatively impacts agriculture
          • Negatively impacts livelihoods
          • Reduced amenity values
          • Reduced native biodiversity
          • Threat to/ loss of endangered species
          • Threat to/ loss of native species
          Impact mechanisms
          • Competition - monopolizing resources
          • Competition (unspecified)
          • Pest and disease transmission
          • Herbivory/grazing/browsing
          • Rapid growth
          • Produces spines, thorns or burrs
          Likelihood of entry/control
          • Highly likely to be transported internationally accidentally
          • Highly likely to be transported internationally deliberately
          • Difficult to identify/detect as a commodity contaminant
          • Difficult/costly to control

          Uses

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          Economic Value

          In pastures it has been promoted as a useful nitrogen-fixer and a source of fodder with extra protein. It may be useful because it survives herbivory, some herbicide applications, and dry conditions (Smith, 1995; Schifino-Wittmann, 2000; Garbulsky and Deregibus, 2006; ILDIS, 2013; Tropical Forages, 2013). It is secondarily preferred by livestock, however, and therefore ranchers must invest effort in maintaining the preferred grasses (Bergin, 2003; Jones and Bunch, 2003).

          Social Benefit

          D. incanum is used as a diuretic, stomachic, febrifuge and hemostatic in Central America (Setyowati-Indarto and Brink, 1999).

          Environmental Services

          Despite its status as an invasive species in the Pacific (US Forest Service, 2014), the USDA continues to promote the planting of this species to establish ground cover, in the context of agricultural and biodiversity values and for soil conservation measures (USDA-NRCS, 2012).

          Uses List

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          Animal feed, fodder, forage

          • Fodder/animal feed

          Environmental

          • Erosion control or dune stabilization
          • Land reclamation
          • Revegetation

          Diagnosis

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          No methods are available for testing and screening this species, apart from the usual use of plant identification tools such as keys. DNA barcoding would be possible, since several DNA barcoding regions have been sampled and are available on GenBank (NCBI, 2014).

          Detection and Inspection

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          Inspection of sticky D. incanum seeds and seed pods on equipment and clothing, and removing or cleaning of these, could slow or prevent the spread of this species.

          Similarities to Other Species/Conditions

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          Desmodium is a large genus (around 450 species). Congeners in its native range are described with keys (Acevedo-Rodríguez, 2005; Lárez Rivas, 2007; Dutra et al., 2009) and from flora descriptions outside its native range (e.g. Wagner et al., 1999).

          Prevention and Control

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          Due to the variable regulations around (de)registration of pesticides, your national list of registered pesticides or relevant authority should be consulted to determine which products are legally allowed for use in your country when considering chemical control. Pesticides should always be used in a lawful manner, consistent with the product's label.

          Cultural control and sanitary measures

          Reducing grazing frequency can favour co-occurring pasture grasses, and the competitive interaction can reduce D. incanum dominance (Bergin, 2003). Partially contradicting, one observer suggested continuous grazing may effectively control D. incancum to low levels, but that after release from grazing pressure it 'comes back with a vengeance' (S. Kaye, Big Island Invasive Species Committee, Hawaii USA, personal communication, 2013). Tortoises were found to significantly reduce the cover of introduced plants compared to native species on Round Island in Mauritius (Griffiths et al., 2013), and D. incanum formed a significant part of their diet. It is not clear whether the cover of D. incanum was reduced by tortoise herbivory. In most cases it is regarded as tolerant of herbivory, disturbance and tillage (Dalle and de Blois, 2006; Guglieri-Caporal et al., 2010; Randriamalala et al., 2012).

          Physical/mechanical control

          D. incanum reproduces by seed, stolons and broken taproots. Complete removal of the roots is required for effective control. It withstands or benefits from fire, intense grazing and tillage (Dalle and de Blois, 2006; Guglieri-Caporal et al., 2010; Randriamalala et al., 2012).

          Movement control

          Conservation workers in Hawaii and elsewhere are in the practice of wearing clean, D. incanum seed-free clothes when going to field sites that may be relatively weed-free. For example, this would be important when flying into conservation areas by helicopter.

          Chemical control

          Often D. incanum is a lawn weed and is considered hard to control because the tap root can persist after herbicide treatments (University of Florida Nassau County Extension, 2013). A pre-emergent herbicide can be used in spring to help control D. incanum in lawns (University of Florida Extension Office, 2013). One control method requires that you locate the main stem, cut it close to the ground and immediately “paint” the cut stem with a glyphosate-type product (University of Florida Extension Office, 2013). Control with triclopyr can be as high as 90% and does not kill associated grasses such as Paspalum notatum (Freitas et al., 2003). Use of herbicides generally to control it, or other weeds will not necessarily cause its decline, and can promote its dominance (Reinert et al., 2004). 

          Gaps in Knowledge/Research Needs

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          This weed may be under-reported where it is common and is probably in more sites than reported. Its pattern and history of spread could perhaps be ascertained via population genetic studies.

          References

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          Links to Websites

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          GISD/IASPMR: Invasive Alien Species Pathway Management Resource and DAISIE European Invasive Alien Species Gatewayhttps://doi.org/10.5061/dryad.m93f6Data source for updated system data added to species habitat list.

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          13/1/14 Original text by:

          Christopher E. Buddenhagen, Florida State University, USA

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