Desmanthus glandulosus

Click on images to enlarge

Print Fact Sheet

Scientific name

Desmanthus glandulosus (B.L. Turner) Luckow

Desmanthus virgatus was regarded by Turner (1950), as an all-encompassing species, comprising D. virgatus , D. pubescens , D. pernambucanus , D. glandulosus and D. leptophyllus . Despite taxonomic revision by Luckow (1993) that resolved the complex to distinct species, many authors continued to refer to all species as D. virgatus in the literature until the late 1990s. Correct nomenclature is now generally used.


Desmanthus virgatus var. glandulosus [basionym]


Fabaceae (alt. Leguminosae) subfamily: Mimosoideae tribe: Mimoseae. Also placed in: Mimosaceae.

Common names

glandular bundle-flower (USA).

Morphological description

Erect or occasionally decumbent perennial herb to 0.7 m tall, sparingly branched.  Young stems red or green with short, white hairs along the mid-rib, strongly angular with red corky ridges.  Older stems smooth and hairless, red or brown in colour.  Bipinnate leaf 4–8 cm long, with 3–6 pairs of pinnae 20–40 mm long and 14–26 pairs of leaflets/pinnae 4.2–7.4 mm long x 0.8–1.4 mm wide, nearly sessile.  Persistent stipules (sometimes early deciduous) 1.2–6.0 mm long.  A sessile, cup-shaped or flattened petiole gland 0.9–3.2 mm in diameter is located between the lower pair of pinnae.  An additional, smaller, orbicular gland is located between the uppermost pinnae, and sometimes between all pairs of pinnae.  Small flowering heads (condensed spikes) 0.7–1.1 cm long, occur singly in leaf axils on short peduncles, 1.8–3.0 cm long.  Heads contain 9–20 sterile and perfect flowers.  Sterile flowers 3–7, may abscise without opening;  occur at the base of the head.  Male flowers abscent.  Perfect flowers (5–12 in number) occur apically and are 3.0–4.0 mm long.
Fruiting stalks, 1.8–3.5 cm long, bear 1–9 pods.  Pods are linear, straight or arched outwards, 5.8–10.5 cm long and 3.4–4.6 mm wide, opening along both margins.  Red, turning warm-brown at maturity.  Seeds 12–27/pod, 2.4–3.2 x 1.9–2.4 mm, oblong to rhomboid to ovate and 4-angled in shape;  golden-brown in colour.


Native to:
A restricted range in the mountains of west Texas and southern New Mexico in USA, and northern Coahuila in Mexico at altitudes from 100–2,200 m asl .


Grazed by herbivores in the native range.  Has potential as a short-term ley legume in cropping systems, in protein banks and hedge-rows, and as an exotic component of improved permanent pastures.


Soil requirements

Occurs naturally on rocky limestone soils and occasionally on soils of volcanic origin.  In exotic locations, Desmanthus spp. are generally selected for their persistence on duplex podzolics and cracking clays, including alkaline and sodic soils, but will grow productively on lighter soils of neutral to alkaline reaction.


Occurs naturally in sub-humid to semi-arid environments receiving an average annual rainfall of 250–500 mm.  Small amounts of rain can fall in most months, but there are generally 8–9 months with less than 50 mm/month rainfall .


Mean annual temperatures in the native range vary from 16–22°C, with average temperatures for coolest and hottest months ranging from 7.4–10.5°C and 24.5–30.6°C respectively.


May possess some shade tolerance because of its natural occurrence under low woodlands.

Reproductive development

Flowers after summer rains from June to September and sets fruit into October in southern USA, slightly earlier in northern Mexico.


Tolerant of regular defoliation in cutting and grazing trials.


No information available.


Guidelines for the establishment and management of sown pastures.


No information is available specifically for D. glandulosus , but information for D. virgatus is relevant.  Sow 1–2 kg/ha of scarified seed at a depth of 0.5–2.0 cm into moist soil with at least 50–60 cm depth of good moist soil to ensure establishment.  Deeper planting depths may prevent or delay emergence.  Surface broadcasting onto a well-prepared seedbed, followed by rolling, or planting using a “crocodile” seeder have also given good results.  Has been established successfully into cultivated strips, or sod-seeded into slashed back pasture treated with glyphosate to suppress grass growth.
Fresh seed is extremely hard-seeded and should be scarified, either abrasively (eg. using a rice polisher) or by hot water treatment (4–10 seconds in boiling water), to raise the germination to a minimum of 50–70%.  It is important to achieve good establishment from the plant crop as seed produced from paddock plants will remain hard-seeded for 5–6 years.


Unknown.  See D. virgatus as a guide.

Compatibility (with other species)

Similar to cv. Marc, it is expected to form productive mixtures in sown pastures with tussock and sward-forming grasses adapted to sub-humid regions. Expected to be similar to cv. Marc in its compatibility, persisting in moderately to heavily grazed buffel grass (Cenchrus ciliaris ) pastures, and recruiting from seed when seasons permit.

Companion species

Grasses:  buffel grass (Cenchrus ciliaris ), Bambatsi panic (Panicum coloratum var. makarikariense), Queensland bluegrass (Dichanthium sericeum ).

Pests and diseases

Occasional, minor damage by psyllid insects (Accizia spp.) was reported in northern Australia.  The psyllids can cause more serious damage in seed crops.  Several seed-eating bruchid beetles (several Acanthoscelides spp. and one Stator sp.) are known to infest Desmanthus.  Recorded as a host for alfalfa mosaic virus.  No other reports of serious pests and diseases were cited.

Ability to spread

No information available.

Weed potential

May have potential to become a weed of disturbed areas.  Its low growth habit limits its ability to dominate companion species.

Feeding value

Nutritive value

Very limited evaluation has been conducted with D. glandulosus .  See values for other Desmanthus spp. as a guide.


Moderately palatable to grazing ruminants.  Lower than for leucaena (Leucaena leucocephala ) but higher than for Stylosanthes scabra cv. Seca.  Accession CPI 90319A was of similar palatability to grazing cattle to most other Desmanthus accessions evaluated in Queensland, Australia, but less palatable than the most palatable accessions, D. virgatus Q9153 and D. leptophyllus CPI 38351.


No toxicities to ruminant livestock were reported in the literature.  Desmanthus spp. do not cause bloat in ruminants because they contain 2–3% (of total DM as tannic acid equivalent) condensed tannins.

Production potential

Dry matter

Little evaluation has been undertaken, but CPI 90319A was high yielding in trials in Queensland, Australia, producing yields of 2–7 t/ha in pure plots in 600–800 mm rainfall environments.

Animal production

No reports of animal production data were cited.


Very limited evaluation, and no artificial breeding of D. glandulosus have been conducted to date.  Possesses a unique combination of morphological characters so that it cannot be accurately placed in either the D. cooleyi or the D. virgatus complexes.  Morphological variation occurs within the species.

Seed production

Unknown.  Likely to be similar to D. virgatus .

Herbicide effects

No information available.



Selected references

Burt, R.L. (1993) Desmanthus: a tropical and subtropical forage legume . Part 1. General Review. Herbage Abstracts, 63, 401–413.
Hopkinson, J.M. and English, B.H. (2004) Germination and hardseededness in Desmanthus. Tropical Grasslands, 38, 1–16.
Luckow, M. (1993) Monograph of Desmanthus (Leguminosae-Mimosoideae). Systematic Botany Monographs. Vol. 38. The American Society of Plant Taxonomists.
Pengelly, B.C. and Liu, C.J. (2001) Genetic relationships and variation in the tropical mimosoid legume Desmanthus assessed by random amplified polymorphic DNA. Genetic Resources and Crop Evolution, 48, 91–99.

Internet links



Country/date released


None released to date.      

Promising accessions

Promising accessions



CPI 90319A Queensland, Australia Among the highest yielding Desmanthus accessions in pure species plots in sub-humid northern Australia.