Desmodium varians (Labill.) Endl.

Slender Tick-trefoil

Ann. Wiener Mus. Naturgesch. 1: 185 (1836) APNI

Taxonomic status:Accepted

Occurrence status:Present

Establishment means:Native

Threat status:Victoria: data deficient (k)

Prostrate to ascending perennial herb; stems 15–50 cm long, glabrous or with a few short glandular and simple hairs. Leaves mostly trifoliolate, the petiolule of the central leaflet twice as long or more than those of lateral leaflets; leaflets usually strongly dimorphic, those of lower leaves broad-obovate to orbicular, 0.5–2.0 cm long, 5–20 mm wide, apices obtuse, those of upper leaves elliptic to narrow-elliptic, 1–4 cm long, 5–8 mm wide, apices acute (rarely leaflets obovate throughout); upper and lower surfaces glabrous to sparsely hairy; petiole 6–30 mm long; stipules c. 5 mm long; stipellae to 1.5 mm long. Racemes terminal, to c. 25 cm long, 4–60-flowered; pedicels 5–20 mm long. Flowers usually paired or in 3s; petals 4–5 mm long, pale pink, white or yellowish. Pod 7–20 mm long, constricted between articles from ventral side only, densely covered with minute uncinate hairs; articles 2–6, each 3–4 mm long. Flowers spring–autumn, also spasmodically in other seasons.

CVU, EGL, EGU, GipP, Gold, HNF, HSF, MonT, NIS, SnM, Strz, VAlp, VRiv, VVP. An uncommon species mostly from inland parts of eastern Victoria where found mainly in woodland and open-forest.

In the eastern part of its range, plants are normally non-twining, and often rather stiff-stemmed and the leaves tend to be strongly dimorphic, with those associated with flowering stems narrow-elliptic to nearly linear, often >20 mm long, with basal leaves obovate or broadly elliptic. West of Melbourne (where the species is uncommon), plants are commonly loosely mat-forming and sometimes twining (as in D. gunnii) and the leaves are less pronouncedly dimorphic, most being relatively broad and rarely more than 20 mm long.

Source: Jeanes, J.A. (1996). Fabaceae. In: Walsh, N.G.; Entwisle, T.J. (eds), Flora of Victoria Vol. 3, Dicotyledons Winteraceae to Myrtaceae. Inkata Press, Melbourne.
Updated by: Neville Walsh, 2019-03-07
Hero image
Distribution map
life Life
kingdom Plantae
phylum Tracheophyta
superorder Rosanae
order Fabales
family Fabaceae
genus Desmodium
Higher taxa


Source: AVH (2014). Australia's Virtual Herbarium, Council of Heads of Australasian Herbaria, <>. Find Desmodium varians in AVH ; Victorian Biodiversity Atlas, © The State of Victoria, Department of Environment and Primary Industries (published Dec. 2014) Find Desmodium varians in Victorian Biodiversity Atlas
  Bioregion Occurrence status Establishment means
Victorian Volcanic Plain present native
Victorian Riverina present native
Gippsland Plain present native
Goldfields present native
Central Victorian Uplands present native
Northern Inland Slopes present native
East Gippsland Lowlands present native
East Gippsland Uplands present native
Highlands-Southern Fall present native
Highlands-Northern Fall present native
Strzelecki Ranges present native
Monaro Tablelands present native
Victorian Alps present native
Snowy Mountains present native

State distribution

Distribution map
New South Wales
Australian Capital Territory