Overview

Comprehensive Description

Comments

Naked-Flowered Tick Trefoil is usually easy to identify because, unlike other Desmodium spp. (Tick Trefoils), it produces its leaves and flowers on separate stalks (except for an uncommon variety). While other species in this genus produce leaves that are clearly alternate, Naked-Flowered Tick Trefoil produces its leaves in pseudo-whorls. This species also has loments (a type of seedpod) with straight or slightly concave upper sides above their segments. In contrast, most species of tick trefoil have loments with convex upper sides above their segments. Naked-Flowered Tick Trefoil also prefers shady woodlands, while other species of tick trefoil usually prefer partially shaded savannas or sunny prairies.
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© John Hilty

Source: Illinois Wildflowers

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Description

This perennial wildflower consists of a short leafy stem (4-12" tall) and a flowering stalk (1½-3' long) that are separated from each other at the base. The leafy stem is erect, light green to reddish green, and short-pubescent; it has 1-2 pseudo-whorls of 3 compound leaves at its apex. The compound leaves are trifoliate with slender petioles about 2-3" long. Individual leaflets are 2-3½" long and 1½-2½" across; they are lanceolate-ovate to oval in shape and their margins are smooth. The upper surface of the leaflets is medium green and short-pubescent to glabrous, while their lower surface is pale green and glabrous. The terminal leaflet of each trifoliate leaf has a slender petiolule (basal stalklet) up to ¾" long, while the lateral leaflets have slender petiolules less than 1/8" long. The erect to ascending flowering stalk is light green to reddish green and short-pubescent; it is usually leafless, although a less common variety of Naked-Flowered Tick Trefoil has 1-2 trifoliate leaves. The upper part of the flowering stalk consists of a raceme or narrow panicle of flowers up to 1' long. The flowers are arranged along the stalk in widely spaced pseudo-whorls. The pedicels of the flowers and lateral branches (if any) are about ½-¾" long.. Individual flowers consist of 5 whitish pink or pale lavender petals, a short tubular calyx with blunt teeth that is greenish red to white, several stamens with white filaments, and a pistil with a single style. The corolla of each flower has a typical pea-like structure consisting of an erect banner, a straight horizontal keel, and a pair of spreading wings. The calyx is short-pubescent and its bottom tooth is larger in size than the others. The blooming period occurs from mid- to late summer for about 1-1½ months. On each plant, only a few flowers are in bloom at the same time and they are not noticeably fragrant. The flowers are replaced by flattened seedpods called 'loments.' The loments usually have 2-3 one-seeded segments (less often, 1 or 4 segments); the upper side of each segment is straight or slightly concave, while the lower side is convex or rhombic. The lateral sides of each loment are covered with short hooked hairs; each loment has a long stipe (about ½" long) at its base and a shorter beak (less than ¼" long) at its tip. Each segment of the loment is about 8 mm. long (a little less than 1/3"). The root system consists of a short broad taproot or caudex. This wildflower reproduces by reseeding itself.
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© John Hilty

Source: Illinois Wildflowers

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Distribution

Range and Habitat in Illinois

Naked-Flowered Tick Trefoil is occasional in central and southern Illinois, while in the northern section of the state it is uncommon (see Distribution Map). Habitats consist of mesic beech-maple woodlands, sandy oak woodlands, and rocky woodlands where sandstone is present. This wildflower occurs in higher quality woodlands where the native ground flora is intact.
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© John Hilty

Source: Illinois Wildflowers

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National Distribution

Canada

Origin: Unknown/Undetermined

Regularity: Regularly occurring

Currently: Unknown/Undetermined

Confidence: Confident

United States

Origin: Native

Regularity: Regularly occurring

Currently: Present

Confidence: Confident

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Source: NatureServe

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Physical Description

Morphology

Physical Description

Perennial, Herbs, Stems woody below, or from woody crown or caudex, Taproot present, Nodules present, Stems erect or ascending, Stems less than 1 m tall, Stems solid, Stems or young twigs glabrous or sparsely glabrate, Stems or young twigs sparsely to densely hairy, Leaves alternate, Leaves petiolate, Stipules setiform, subulate or acicular, Stipules deciduous, Stipules free, Leaves compound, Leaves pinnately 3-foliolate, Leaves odd pinnate, Leaf or leaflet margins entire, Leaflets opposite, Leaflets 3, Leaves glabrous or nearly so, Stems dimorphic, inflorescence borne on separate stem, Inflorescences racemes, Inflorescence terminal, Bracts very small, absent or caducous, Bracteoles present, Flowers zygomorphic, Calyx 2-lipped or 2-lobed, Calyx hairy, Petals separate, Corolla papilionaceous, Petals clawed, Petals white, Petals pinkish to rose, Petals blue, lavander to purple, or violet, Banner petal ovoid or obovate, Wing petals narrow, oblanceolate to oblong, Wing tips obtuse or rounded, Keel tips obtuse or rounded, not beaked, Stamens 9-10, Stamens monadelphous, united below, Filaments glabrous, Style terete, Fruit a loment, jointed, separating into articles, Fruit stipitate, Fruit unilocular, Fruit indehiscent, Fruit exserted from calyx, Fruit compressed between seeds, Fruit hairy, Fruit 2-seeded, Fruit 3-10 seeded, Seeds ovoid to rounded in outline, Seeds reniform, Seed surface smooth, Seeds olive, brown, or black.
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Dr. David Bogler

Source: USDA NRCS PLANTS Database

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Ecology

Habitat

Range and Habitat in Illinois

Naked-Flowered Tick Trefoil is occasional in central and southern Illinois, while in the northern section of the state it is uncommon (see Distribution Map). Habitats consist of mesic beech-maple woodlands, sandy oak woodlands, and rocky woodlands where sandstone is present. This wildflower occurs in higher quality woodlands where the native ground flora is intact.
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© John Hilty

Source: Illinois Wildflowers

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Associations

Faunal Associations

The flowers are cross-pollinated by bumblebees, other long-tongued bees, and Halictid bees; these visitors collect pollen. Nectar is not available as a floral reward. Other insects feed on the foliage and other parts of Desmodium spp. (Tick Trefoils). These species include the caterpillars of several skippers, butterflies, and moths; the leaf-mining larvae of the Buprestid beetles Pachyschelus confusus and Pachyschelus laevigatus; the larvae of the seed weevil Apion decoloratum; the thrips Echinothrips americanus and Neohydatothrips desmodianus; and the aphid Microparsus variabilis. There are also several leaf beetles that feed on the foliage of tick trefoils
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© John Hilty

Source: Illinois Wildflowers

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Molecular Biology and Genetics

Molecular Biology

Statistics of barcoding coverage: Desmodium nudiflorum

Barcode of Life Data Systems (BOLDS) Stats
Public Records: 0
Specimens with Barcodes: 8
Species With Barcodes: 1
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Source: Barcode of Life Data Systems (BOLD)

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Conservation

Conservation Status

National NatureServe Conservation Status

Canada

Rounded National Status Rank: NNR - Unranked

United States

Rounded National Status Rank: N5 - Secure

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Source: NatureServe

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NatureServe Conservation Status

Rounded Global Status Rank: G5 - Secure

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Relevance to Humans and Ecosystems

Benefits

Cultivation

The preference is light to medium shade, mesic conditions, and a slightly to moderately acidic soil containing sand, rocky material, or loam with decaying organic matter. The root system of this wildflower fixes nitrogen into the soil via symbiotic bacteria.
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© John Hilty

Source: Illinois Wildflowers

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