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Cream-flowered Tick Trefoil, Cream Ticktrefoil, Tick Clover, Creamflowered Tick-Trefoil - Desmodium ochroleucum


Family: Fabaceae - Pea family Genus Common Name: Ticktrefoil Native Status: NativeDicot Perennial Herb
Desmodium ochroleucum - Cream-flowered Tick Trefoil, Cream Ticktrefoil, Tick Clover, Creamflowered Tick-Trefoil. According to the December 2006 edition of "Castanea", the journal of the Southern Appalachian Botanical Society, there are 13 known populations of this species in 6 states - Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Maryland, Mississippi, and Tennessee. There are 5 other states within its historical range, but the populations have apparently been lost, presumably extirpated, in these states: New Jersey, Delaware, Virgina, North Carolina, and Missouri.

According to Linda G. Chafin's Field Guide to the Rare Plants of Georgia there are fewer than 25 sites. Since 13 is less than 25 both of these publications are likely correct, with the difference likely being how recently the plant has been recorded at the various sites. For example, in Georgia there are 2 sites listed for this plant, one of them the Walker County location where these photographs were made. The other site is in Lee County, but the plant has not been seen there since the 1940s.

With those few sites where the plant is known, it is not a wonder that it is Endangered in Florida, Maryland, Tennessee, Threatened in Georgia.

I owe much appreciation to Jay Clark who pointed out these plants and their identity while we were looking for Shadow Witch Orchids.

Found in:
AL, DC, DE, FL, GA, MD, MO, MS, NC, NJ, TN, VA

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Desmodium ochroleucum

Distribution of Desmodium ochroleucum in the United States and Canada:
USDA Plants Distribution Map temporarily unavailable.
Blue=Native; Grey=Introduced

Map from USDA Plants Database:
USDA, NRCS. 2017. The PLANTS Database (http://plants.usda.gov, 16 Aug 2017). National Plant Data Team, Greensboro, NC 27401-4901 USA.

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Site: Cedar Glade, Pigeon Mountain East, Walker County, GA Date: 2013-September-03Photographer: Gerald C Williamson
Nikon D7000
The species epithet "ochroleucum" means yellowish white - reflected in the "cream" common name. Some populations have more yellowish blossoms, but the only ones I have seen are at this location, where the blossoms are white.
Desmodium ochroleucum

Site: Cedar Glade, Pigeon Mountain East, Walker County, GA Date: 2013-September-03Photographer: Gerald C Williamson
Nikon D7000
The blossoms of Cream Ticktrefoil are white, and are the typical pea family shape, with an upper, rounded banner petal. The flower stems and calyx are covered with short glandular hairs.
Click on the photo for a larger image
Desmodium ochroleucum

Site: Cedar Glade, Pigeon Mountain East, Walker County, GA Date: 2011-October-01Photographer: Gerald C Williamson
Nikon D7000
While the color of the blossom (most local Ticktrefoils are pinkish) is important, a key identifier of Desmodium ochroleucum is the shape and size of the leaflets.
Click on the photo for a larger image
Desmodium ochroleucum

Site: Cedar Glade, Pigeon Mountain East, Walker County, GA Date: 2013-September-06Photographer: Gerald C Williamson
Nikon D7000
The central, terminal leaflet is larger than the other two, and is oval or frequently diamond shaped. There usually a pale streak along the vein that runs up the middle of the leaflet. The leaflets are up to about 2.5 inches long. The petiole is up to about 2 inches long, hairy, and has a pair of stipules at the base. The leaves are alternate along the hairy stem. The surface of the leaflets are without hairs, although the margins may be ciliate.
Click on the photo for a larger image
Desmodium ochroleucum

Site: Cedar Glade, Pigeon Mountain East, Walker County, GAr County, GA Date: 2011-October-01Photographer: Gerald C Williamson
Nikon D7000
While most Desmodium species are upright, D. ochroleucum is on a reclining stem, with only the flower stalks rising.
Click on the photo for a larger image
Desmodium ochroleucum

Site: Cedar Glade, Pigeon Mountain East, Walker County, GA Date: 2011-October-01Photographer: Gerald C. Williamson
Nikon D7000
Tamron SP 90MM f/2.8 AF Macro
The flower stems and calyx are covered with short glandular hairs. The species epithet "ochroleucum" means yellowish white - reflected in the "cream" common name. The blossom is not quite a bright white...
Click on the photo for a larger image
Desmodium ochroleucum

Site: Cedar Glade, Pigeon Mountain East, Walker County, GA Date: 2013-September-06Photographer: Gerald C Williamson
Nikon D7000
The seedpod is up to 2 inches long, flattened, and quite veiny. It has 3 to 5 segments.
Click on the photo for a larger image
Desmodium ochroleucum

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All content except USDA Plants Database map Copyright Gerald C. Williamson 2017
Photographs Copyright owned by the named photographer