Desmodium triflorum (L.) DC.

Etymology Genus Chain; referring to fruit pod which comprises of several joints
Species Three-flowered; probably referring to the flower clusters, though they normally flower singly
Family Fabaceae
Synonyms Hedysarum triflorum L.
Common Names Lesser Clover-leafed Desmodium, Black Clover
Status Undetermined
Form Herb
Native Distribution Pantropical and subtropical


A very common species in lawns and scrublands. The leaves are triifoliated and each leaflet is shaped like an inverse triangle with blunt edges. The apex may be slightly notched or have none at all.

Both Oxalis corniculata and Desmodium heterophyllum are similar to it. O. corniculata's leaflets have more distinct notches at the apices and they are arranged 120° from each other. D. heterophyllum leaflets are often much larger and elongated.

Interesting Facts:

Just like its congenor D. heterophyllum, the Lesser Clover-leaf Desmodium can be found on a wide range of soil conditions. In Southeast Asian countries, it is used as a tradition medicine to treat diarrhoea and dysentery, and also as a mouthwash and antipyretic (Setyowati-Indarto & Brink, 1999). Labratory studies also showed analgesic, anti-inflammatory, and antioxidant effects of Desmodium triflorum (Lai et al., 2009; Lai et al., 2010).A suspected variety with white flowers has been sighted on the grass patches of the now defunct Bidadari Cemetery.

A patch of grassland filled with Lesser Clover-leafed Desmodium.

Leaflets are slightly notched at the apex.

Purple-flowered Desmodium triflorum.

White-flowered Desmodium triflorum, with its keel petal lowered.


Lai S-C, W-H Peng, S-H Huang, Y-L Ho, T-H Huang & Y-S Chang. (2009) Analgesic and anti-Inflammatory activities of methanol extract from Desmodium triflorum DC in mice. The American Journal of Chinese Medicine, 37(3): 573-588.
Lai S-C, Y-L Ho, S-H Huang, T-H Huang, Z-R Zhen, C-R Wu, K-Y Lian & Y-S Chang. (2010) Antioxidant and antiproliferative activities of Desmodium triflorum (L.) DC. The American Journal of Chinese Medicine, 38(2): 329-342.
Setyowati-Indarto N & M Brink. (1999) Desmodium triflorum (L.) DC. In: de Padua LS, Bunyapraphatsara N & RHMJ Lemmens (Eds.) Plant Resources of South-East Asia No. 12(1): Medicinal and poisonous plants 1. Backhuys Publisher, Leiden, The Netherlands. pp 249.

Author: Jake
Posted: 2013-01-04 / Modified: 2019-08-27