Better Pastures for the tropics - banner


Desmodium, Greenleaf
(Desmodium intortum)

Desmodium - illustration  
  • trailing perennial
  • for tropical tablelands or humid subtropics
  • reliable rainfall over 1,100 mm
  • good spring and autumn vigour
  • susceptible to insect attack.
  • Greenleaf desmodium has been grown along the coast from Grafton in New South Wales to northern Queensland, with special value on the Atherton Tableland.

    Greenleaf desmodium is a rather coarse, trailing plant with a deep tap root and thick stems which root down well at the nodes. The leaves have the characteristic reddish brown to purple flecking on the upper surface. It is palatable, and so susceptible to extended heavy grazing.

    It combines well with tall grasses such as Nandi setaria, guinea grass, green panic and also with creeping species such as kikuyu.

    It has good nutritive value, and is well accepted by stock. Greenleaf needs moderately fertile soils, but is fairly versatile as long as fertiliser is applied, responding strongly to superphosphate. It can tolerate acid conditions and more waterlogging than glycines, but will drop its leaf in dry weather.

    Greenleaf can stand lower temperatures than most tropical legumes, although knocked by frost. It grows early in the spring, but also has good autumn growth because it flowers in late autumn-early winter (about a month later than silverleaf desmodium). Autumn performance is about the same as that of the late-flowering Tinaroo glycine, and can be used similarly for autumn-saved grazing. Its late-flowering makes seed production difficult in frosty southern areas.

    Hard seed should be treated, and inoculated with specific rhizobium, before being sown into prepared seed-beds; seedlings are not particularly vigorous, and paddocks should be grazed leniently in the first season to keep the grasses down.

    Greenleaf is often sown with another legume, such as glycine, to insure against damaging attack by the adults and larvae of Amnemus or Leptopius weevils.

    While it has been the most successful legume for dairy pastures on the Tableland, it is now used now only as grazing for dry cows since the stocking rates for milking cows are too high for legume-based pastures.

    Creator: Ian Partridge
    Date created: 07 April 1998  Revised:15 January 2003

    Better Pastures home page