Tropical Forages

Grona triflora

Scientific name

Grona triflora (L.) H. Ohashi & K. Ohashi


Basionym: Hedysarum triflorum L.; Desmodium triflorum (L.) DC.; Meibomia triflora (L.) Kuntze


Family: Fabaceae (alt. Leguminosae) subfamily: Faboideae tribe: Desmodieae.

Morphological description

Prostrate, mainly perennial herb, forming mat 3‒5 (‒50) cm tall, strong, woody taproot.  Stems slender, reddish, white or cream pubescent, much branched, extending to 50 cm, frequently rooting at the nodes.  Leaves pinnately trifolioliate (lower leaves sometimes unifoliolate), leaflets 3‒10 (‒15) mm long and 3‒9 (‒14) mm wide, obovate to obcordate, base cuneate, apex truncate or emarginate, glabrous above, finely pubescent below; lateral leaflets smaller than terminal leafletpetiole 4‒8 (‒15) mm long, pubescent; stipule c. 5 mm long, ovate-lanceolate; rachis 3‒6 mm long; petiolules 2‒3 mm long.  Flowers 5 mm long, in short axillary racemes of 1–3 (‒5); corolla pink to purple, rarely white; pedicel puberulent, 3‒8 mm long, to 13 mm at fruiting. Pods flat, segmented,  5‒12 (‒18) mm long and 2–3.5 mm wide, comprising 3–5 (‒7) articles, covered with minute hooked hairs; upper suture straight, lower suture constricted between the articles; articles nearly quadrate, reticulately veined, separating when ripe.  Seed yellow, reniform to orbicular c. 1.2 × 1.7 mm.

Similar species

Grona triflora: terminal leaflet obcordate, obtriangular, or obovate,  2.5–10 mm long and 2.5–10 mm wide, base cuneate, apex truncate, slightly emarginate; silver blaze absent.

Grona heterophylla: terminal leaflet broadly elliptic or broadly elliptic-obovate, 10–30 mm long and 8–15 mm wide, base obtuse, apex rounded or nearly truncate, often emarginate; silver blaze on midrib common.

Common names

Africa: kelen, ka-sẻlaem, kσli niki, xinyσgi (Sierra Leone); ẹ̀pà-ilè (Nigeria)

Asia: smau kaè lolook (Cambodia); 三点金 san dian jin (China); delilan (Javanese), djukut djarem, jukut jarem (Sundanese), daun mules, sisik betok (also G. heterophylla), udu pelian bule (Indonesia); hai-makie-hagi (Japan); rumput barek sisek putih, sisek tenggiling (Malaysia); gumadep (Ifugao), himbispuyo (Visayas), kaliskis-dalag, pacpaclangao (Tagalog) (Philippines); ya-klethoi, ya-tanhoi, ya-tansai (Thailand); cây hàn the ba hoa, hàn the ba hoa, tràng quả ba hoa (Vietnam)

English: black clover, creeping tick trefoil, three-flower beggarweed, lesser clover-leaved desmodium, matty desmodium, tropical trefoil

Europe: desmodium à trois fleurs, petit oseille marron, trèfle gazon, trèfle petit, trèfle rampant, trèfle savane (French); dreiblütiger Wandelklee (German)

Indian Ocean: kodalia, outoupilli, trèfle des chasseurs (Mauritius); trèfle noir (Reunion) 

Indian subcontinent: kodalia (Assamese); chalani, kudaliya, salpani (Bengali); motha, kudaliya (Hindi); kaadu menthe, kaadu pullampurasi, kaadu pullam purasi (Kannada):  रान मेथी raan methi (Konkani); നിലംപരണ്ട nilamparanda, cherupalladi, cherupulladi, kunnappalai, munta-mandu, nilampulladi, nilamparanta (Malayalam); छिपटी chipti, जंगली मेथी jungali methi, रान मेथी raan methi (Marathi); bawngekhlo (Mizo); बुटे कनिके bute kanike, nimphuli (Nepali); kansisna, bawngekhlo (Oriya); त्रिपदी tripadi, हंसपदी hamsapadi (Sanskrit); heen-undupiyali (Sinhalese); அங்குசபாதி ankuca-pati , ciru pullati, sirupulladi, sirupullati (Tamil); moohoodoo, muntamandu, moordoo (Telugu); bawngekhlo

Latin America: amor-do-campo, amorzinho-seco, trevinho-de-campo (Brazil); acaba pangola, alfalfilla, alfalfillo de llano, cuartillo, estacal, hierba cuartillo, morlomin, pequeño trébol desmodio de hoja plateada, desmodio plateado, desmodium español (Spanish)

Madagascar: kodiadiamborona, tsimathatrandrivamanitra 

Pacific: konikoni, vakathengu (Fiji); agsom, apo (Guam); olmud (Palau); kihikihi (Tonga)


G. triflora is widespread throughout the world tropics and subtropics, extending into continental regions that experience extremes of hot and cold.  Attempts have been made to define the limits of indigineity, but these are somewhat blurred by encroachment of areas of naturalization.


A component of short (grazed) native and sown pastures, where it can form up to 50% of the herbage.  Creeping mat can provide good ground cover during the wet season, especially in mown or closely cut uses.


Maintains a stable ground cover in association with stoloniferous grasses under constant heavy grazing or regular mowing such as under plantation crops and in lawns.


Considered to have medicinal properties for treating dysentery, rheumatism, fever, jaundice, stomach ache, skin problems, wounds and ulcers (in particular in India and China).

Soil requirements

Found on a wide range of soil types, including acid, high Al soils.


G. triflora largely occurs in moist, well-drained soils in the humid and subhumid tropics and subtropics with annual rainfall above 700 mm; it behaves as perennial under well-distributed rainfall and as an annual in the strongly seasonally dry tropics. While it survives mid-season dry periods, leaf drop serves as a survival mechanism in even moderately dry periods.


It is well-adapted to warm environments, being found largely between the Tropics, although it has been found about 28° S in Australia and possibly at similar latitude north of the equator in Iran.  Leaves are readily frosted, but plants recover with the onset of warmer conditions.


Very shade-tolerant, being more dominant than grasses under the shade of shrub canopies.  Persists under plantation crops in the Pacific.

Reproductive development

Flowers and sets seed over a long period making seed production difficult.


Resistant to heavy grazing and frequent mowing or cutting.


Pastures containing G. triflora are rarely burned with a hot fire because of low fuel loads, but the plants can re-establish from rootstocks or seed.


Guidelines for establishment and management of sown forages.


G. triflora is rarely sown commercially.  It spreads naturally through seed in dung or by adhering to the coats of grazing animals.


Responds well to P (and S).

Compatibility (with other species)

Compatable with prostrate grass and legume species.

Companion species

Grasses:  Found in association with many grasses including Axonopus spp., Bothriochloa pertusa, Cynodon spp., Ischaemum timorense, Heteropogon contortus, Paspalum notatum.
Legumes:  Alysicarpus vaginalis, Grona heterophylla.

Pests and diseases

No information available.

Ability to spread

Occurs in most land uses in regions to which it is well adapted such as pastures, roadsides, lawns.  It is found throughout the tropics.

Weed potential

May be considered a weed in cultivation and in lawns.

Feeding value
Nutritive value

14–18% CP.


Very palatable to all classes of livestock, including poultry.


No reports of toxicity.

Production potential
Dry matter

In most situations G. triflora produces so little dry matter, it is unlikely to be seriously considered in any sown pasture or forage program. Nevertheless yields of up to 4 t/ha DM have been recorded.

Animal production

Widespread and persistent under heavy grazing and so likely to markedly improve the diet of livestock on heavily grazed native pastures such as those found on communally owned and managed grazing land.


2n = 22.

Seed production

No commercial seed production due to limited or no demand, low growth habit and the extended period over which flowering and seed set occurs.

Herbicide effects

No information available.

  • Tolerant of heavy grazing.
  • Very palatable.
  • Natural spread under grazing.
  • Adapted to wide range of soils.
  • Excellent ground cover in heavily grazed areas.
  • Low growing habit.
  • Little dry matter production.
  • Difficult seed production.
Selected references

Ma, X., Zheng, C., Hu, C., Rahman, K. and Qin, L. (2011) The genus Desmodium (Fabaceae) ‒ traditional uses in Chinese medicine, phytochemistry and pharmacology. Journal of Ethnopharmacology 138:314–332.

Ohashi, H. and Ohashi, K. (2018) Grona, a Genus Separated from Desmodium (Leguminosae Tribe Desmodieae). Journal of Japanese Botany 93:104–120.

Pattanaik, C., Reddy, C.S. and Murthy, M.S.R. (2008) An ethnobotanical survey of medicinal plants used by the Didayi tribe of Malkangiri district of Orissa, India. Fitoterapia 79:67–71.

Pengelly, B.C. (1992) Desmodium triflorum (L.) DC. In: Mannetje, L.’t and Jones, R.M. (eds) Plant Resources of South-East Asia No. 4. Forages. Pudoc Scientific Publishers, Wageningen, the Netherlands. p. 116.

Williams, C.N. and Yunus, M.M. (1975) A biological study of Desmodium triflorum. Malaysian Agricultural Research 4:163–172.


None released to date.

Promising accessions

None reported.