Tropical Forages

Centrosema brasilianum

Scientific name
Centrosema brasilianum (L.) Benth.

Basionym: Clitoria brasiliana L.; Bradburya brasiliana (L.) Kuntze


Family: Fabaceae (alt. Leguminosae) subfamily: Faboideae tribe: Phaseoleae subtribe: Clitoriinae.

Morphological description

Commonly described as a prostrate-trailing to twining, perennial, herbaceous species.  However, some erect and semi-erect forms have been identified.  Similarly, the ability to form adventitious roots on trailing stems varies among studies.  Leaves trifoliolate, leaflets elliptical-oblong to lanceolate, sometimes ovate, apex acute or obtuse, 3.3‒6.6 cm long, 1.5‒3.6 cm wide.  Flowers usually in racemes of 2‒5 flowers, sometimes solitary.  Bracteoles glabrous or pubescent, 3‒13 mm long, 12‒17 mm long and 5‒10 mm wide, ovate and flat or cupped.  Peduncles in leaf axils, 4‒30 mm long.  Papilionate flower, usually violet, violet-blue or red-lilac, in rare cases also white or purple.  Variation in colour intensity within one accession can occur, suggesting some degree of outcrossing.  Time from sowing to flowering <3‒7 months.  Pods linear, dehiscent, 70‒160 mm long and 4‒5 mm wide, beak to 20mm long, containing 8‒23 seeds.  Seeds light to dark brown, sometimes grey, black or yellow, often with darker stripes or mottled.  Seeds cylindrical, 3.4‒4.4 mm long, 2.3‒3.1 mm wide.  33,000‒90,000 seeds/kg.

Common names

English: Brazilian centro

Latin America: brinco de princesa, cabeca de galo, cipó das feridas, coelho no prato, cunha pan do rego, espia camino, feijão bravo, feijão do campo, feijão do mato, guarumbó, jequirana, jetirana, marmelada, oró, patinha



South America:  Argentina (Misiones); Bolivia; Brazil (Alagoas, Amapá, Amazonas, Bahia, Ceará, Espírito Santo, Federal District, Goiás, Maranhão, Mato Grosso, Mato Grosso do Sul, Minas Gerais, Paraiba, Paraná, Pernambuco, Piauí, Rio de Janeiro, Rio Grande do Norte, Roraima, Santa Catarina, São Paulo, Sergipe); Colombia; French Guiana; Guyana; Paraguay, Peru (Loreto); Suriname; Venezuela


Central America:  Nicaragua


has been evaluated extensively, mostly under cutting, in a wide range of environments in Australia, Africa and tropical America.  Evaluations under cutting identified it as a promising species for the semi-arid to dry-subhumid environments of northern Australia, West Africa and tropical America, with tolerance of acid, high aluminium soils.
Persistence under grazing depends on pasture management, with periodic regeneration through seeds seen as the main mechanism for persistence.  Such regeneration is favoured by the free seeding habit of the species.  In long-term (11 years) grazing studies in northern Australia, only a few accessions of persisted under grazing, among them cv. Oolloo.

Soil requirements

Native habitat: well drained, acid to very acid (pH 4.1‒6.3) soils, medium to low fertility and sandy to loamy texture, tolerance of high levels of aluminium.  Accession CIAT 5234 has shown some adaptation to less well-drained soils in the flooded savannas of the Pantanal of Brazil.


A particular characteristic of is its high tolerance of drought, with the ability to retain green leaves over extended (5‒8 months) dry seasons.  Osmotic and stomatal regulations are the main processes to control water loss.  However, as the tolerance of leaf water deficits is lower than for other Centrosema spp. and leaf morphology does not indicate adaptation to drought, drought tolerance of is attributed to its deep root system (taproot).


is a true lowland species, with most accessions collected at altitudes of 50‒300 m asl and thus is a warm season plant.  In northeast Argentina, the species is less affected by frost than Centrosema macrocarpum.


No shade tolerance known.

Reproductive development

In the Venezuelan savannas, flowering initiated 67‒92 days after planting, with maximum flowering 104‒138 days after planting.  A wide range of time to flowering was also observed in the savannas of northern Nigeria.


Good tolerance of grazing and cutting.


Some tolerance to fire.


Guidelines for establishment and management of sown forages.


Scarification of seeds before sowing is necessary.  Positive results were obtained with mechanical scarification, hot water treatment, Osram irradiation and sulphuric acid.  establishes relatively slowly; hence weed control during establishment is beneficial.  Can be established in oxisols and ultisols in roughly prepared seedbeds, following disc harrowing or chisel ploughing and some vegetation control.  A sowing depth of 5 cm is recommended, with seeding rates of 4‒5 kg/ha.  Promiscuous in its Bradyrhizobium requirements but in experiments in Colombia, the species has responded to inoculation.


As for other Centrosema species, phosphorus is the most limiting nutrient for establishment.  Recommendations range from 10 to 40 kg P/ha, depending on soil.  In contrast to commercial centro ( ), requires only small quantities of magnesium and calcium for establishment.

Compatibility (with other species)

Successful mixtures with Stylosanthes capitata and a range of grasses are reported.  Compatible with erect, tufted and stoloniferous grasses.

Companion species

Grasses:  Setaria sphacelata, Andropogon gayanusMegathyrsus maximus, Hyparrhenia rufaUrochloa spp.

Pests and diseases

The biggest limitation for , particularly in humid environments, is its susceptibility to rhizoctonia foliar blight (RFB), a fungal disease caused by a complex of Rhizoctonia solani, binucleate Rhizoctonia sp. (BNR), and R. zeae.  In legume-only small plots, most evaluated accessions were susceptible but a certain degree of resistance has been identified in some accessions.  In grazed pastures RFB affects young seedlings, reducing persistence and dry matter production, with yield reductions of up to 50%.

Ability to spread

Depending on accession, through seed and adventitious roots on trailing stems.

Weed potential

Probably low; there are no reports.

Feeding value
Nutritive value

Forage quality of is high and compares favourably with other tropical legumes.  In studies with large collections in Colombia and Nigeria (130 and 257 accessions, respectively), with sampling age of 6 and 18 weeks respectively, CP content ranged between 11.8 and 19.6%.  Reports on IVDMD are variable and range from 48‒56% to >70%.  In contrast with many other tropical legumes, maintains its quality and retains its leaves under drought to a large extent.


is highly palatable.  In Peru, very well accepted by cattle in the high rainfall period.


No information available; probably none.

Production potential
Dry matter

3‒10 t DM/ha/year.

Animal production

Positive effects of on liveweight gains in associations with Setaria sphacelata cv. Kazungula and other grasses, and on sward persistence are reported from Australia and Colombia.  LWG of 150 kg/animal/year are reported.  Biggest impact in dry season with LWG of 34‒67 g/day/animal;  in wet season LWG of 660‒670 g/day/animal.


2n = 20 and 2n = 22.  There has been no breeding work with as yet.  Occasional segregation in flower colour suggests that the species should be considered as partially outcrossing.  Hybridization attempts with C. tetragonolobum have been successful.

Seed production

For cv. Oolloo, seed yields equivalent to 1,000 kg/ha have been harvested in trial plots in Australia.  In evaluations in South America, seed yields of up to 1,200‒1,400 kg/ha are reported, with common yields 200‒500 kg/ha (hand-harvested).  Seed yields benefit from support systems as trellises or grass stakes.

Herbicide effects

No information available.

  • Outstanding drought tolerance retaining green leaf through extended dry periods, contributing to good animal production.
  • Excellent adaptation to acid soils and low mineral nutrient requirements.
  • High nutritive value.
  • High seed yields.
  • Susceptibility to RFB and other diseases.
  • Optimum management requirements unknown.
Selected references

Barbosa-Fevereiro, V.P. (1977) Centrosema (A.P. de Candolle) Bentham do Brasil - Leguminosae - Faboideae. Rodriguésia 29:159–219.

Cadisch, G., Sylvester-Bradley, R. and Nösberger, J. (1992) Variation in growth and N2 fixation within and among Centrosema spp. in response to phosphorus supply. Tropical Grasslands 26:226–234.

Clements, R.J., Winter, W.H. and Reid, R. (1984) Evaluation of some Centrosema in small plots in Northern Australia. Tropical Grasslands 18:83–91.

Coradin, L. and Ramos, A.K.B. (2016) Centrosema brasilianum (Centrosema). In: Vieira, R.F., Camillo, J. and Coradin, L. (eds) Espécies Nativas da Flora Brasileira de Valor Econômico Atual ou Potencial: Plantas para o Futuro ‒ Região Centro-Oeste. Secretaria de Biodiversidade, Ministério do Meio Ambiente, Brasília, DF, Brazil. p. 489‒498.

Grof, B. (1986) Forage potential of some Centrosema species in the Llanos Orientales of Colombia. Tropical Grasslands 20:107–112.

Ludlow, M.M., Chu, A.C.P., Clements, R.J. and Kerslake, R.G. (1983) Adaptation of species of Centrosema to water stress. Australian Journal of Plant Physiology 10:119–130.

Peters, M., Kramer, H., Tarawali, S.A. and Schultze-Kraft, R. (1998) Characterization of a germplasm collection of the tropical pasture legume Centrosema brasilianum in subhumid West Africa. The Journal of Agricultural Science 130:139–147.

Schultze-Kraft, R. and Belalcázar, J. (1988) Germplasm collection and preliminary evaluation of the pasture legume Centrosema brasilianum (L.) Benth. Tropical Agriculture (Trinidad) 65:137–144.

Schultze-Kraft, R. and Clements, R.J. (eds). (1990) Centrosema: Biology, agronomy, and utilization. CIAT Publication No. 92. Centro Internacional de Agricultura Tropical (CIAT), Cali, Colombia.

'Oolloo' Released in Australia (1997). (AusTRCF 55698, CPI 55698, BRA 001945, CIAT 5370, CIAT 5468, CPAC 1802, CPAC 232).  Origin Petrolina, Pernambuco, Brazil (9°23' S; 380 m asl; 400 mm/yr).
Promising accessions

ILRI 155 (= CIAT 5234) Nigeria, savannas. 

CIAT 5234 Has shown some adaptation to less well-drained soils in the flooded savannas of the Pantanal of Brazil. 

CIAT 5178, CIAT 5234 Colombia, savannas.

CIAT 5055, CIAT 5234, CIAT 5247 Venezuela, savannas.

CIAT 5468, CIAT 5553, CIAT 5689, CIAT 5823, CIAT 25112, CIAT 25132 Nigeria, savannas. ‘Group A material': rapid establishment, short term use.

CIAT 5512, CIAT 5667, CIAT 15192, CIAT 15270, CIAT 15401, CIAT 25113, CIAT 25210 Nigeria, savannas. 'Group B material': higher persistence, longer term use.