Desmodium illinoense

Species Native to Missouri
Common Name: tick-trefoil 
Type: Herbaceous perennial
Family: Fabaceae
Zone: 4 to 8
Height: 2.00 to 5.00 feet
Spread: 1.00 to 2.00 feet
Bloom Time: June to August
Bloom Description: White
Sun: Full sun
Water: Dry to medium
Maintenance: Low
Suggested Use: Naturalize
Flower: Showy
Tolerate: Drought


Easily grown in average, dry to medium soils in full sun. Freely self-seeds in optimum growing conditions.

Noteworthy Characteristics

Desmodium illinoense is commonly called tick trefoil or Illinois tick trefoil. In Missouri, it is primarily found in prairies and glades (Steyermark). This is a leguminous perennial that, although somewhat weedy, produces showy flowers. It is a spindly plant (2-3’ but less frequently to 5’ tall) that features trifoliolate leaves and loose, slender, terminal inflorescences of white pea-like flowers atop unbranched hairy stems. Flowers bloom in summer. Lower surfaces of the leaflets are distinctively net-veined and covered with hooked hairs. Leaf stalks have prominent stipules at the bases. Flowers give way to flattened, 3- to 7-segmented pods covered by minute hooked hairs. When the pods ripen, the segments separate into one-seeded sections that cling to clothing in the manner as burs. Desmodiums are also sometimes commonly called beggar’s lice or beggarsweed.

Genus name comes from the Greek word desmos meaning a band or chain with reference to the jointed pods.

Specific epithet means of Illinois.


No serious insect or disease problems.


Naturalized areas, native plant gardens, prairies or meadows. Somewhat weedy for the border.