Desmodium triflorum (Common name: Beggarweed): A Creeping Plant with Medicinal Uses

A few days ago I found some wonderful plants spreading on the roadside near my home. The scientific name of this plant is Desmodium triflorum. You may find them around you which have trifoliate leaves. This medicinal weed grows naturally on slopes near ponds, roadsides, pasture, moist areas, lawns, grasslands, riverbanks, forests and any land slope. The Desmodium triflorum belongs to the Fabaceae family.

Common names

Common names of Desmodium triflorum include-

  1. Three-flower beggarweed
  2. Beggarweed
  3. Creeping beggarweed

Origin and distribution

This plant species is found mainly in tropical and subtropical regions including the United States, Australia, China, Malesia, and Southeast Asia (including India and Bangladesh). Desmodium triflorum is thought to be originated anywhere in the tropical region of Asia.

Desmodium triflorum can usually be found in waste places, disturbed and cultivated areas, forest edges, and grazing land.

It can grow in different types of soil with a varied pH range. Though Desmodium triflorum loves moist soil but usually doesn’t grow in lowlands. You may find this weed in undisturbed areas. Desmodium triflorum is most common on slopes.

What is Desmodium triflorum?

Photo of desmodium triflorum plants
Desmodium triflorum

Desmodium triflorum belongs to the Fabaceae family and is an annual to perennial plant. It has a woody taproot. Its dense branches and trifoliate leaves make a covering on the soil.

It is a perennial herb, growing up to 1 m high. The root system is shallow and fibrous with numerous adventitious roots and new shoots often grow from the base of old plants. Desmodium triflorum has an upright erect stem that becomes trailing when the plant matures. It has green leaves.

Stems are rounded. Leaves are heart-shaped, also referred to as trifoliate. Due to its three leaflet characteristic, it is named so. The compound leaves are alternate in position with the stalks. Its leaflets are about 0.2 inches in length. Each leaf is made up of 3 leaflets. Desmodium triflorum‘s flowers are creamy-white in colour and it has pale yellow petals which grow from the middle part of a stalk. The flowers may be bisexual or male (staminate) with 9 stamens and female (pistillate) with 3 styles.

Desmodium triflorum has bisexual flowers. Flowers are attractive and the color is usually purple. Pink and purple color flowers are also found. When flowers bloom, their attractive color with green foliage can blow your mind. Pods of Desmodium triflorum are loments and their length is about 0.5 inches.

This plant can propagate both by seeds, stem fragments and stolons.

Environmental benefits of Desmodium triflorum

Environmental benefits of Desmodium triflorum includes-

  1. This plant works as a natural covering for bare soil and protects soil from erosion. 
  2. It is a good indicator of species of wetland and aquatic life.
  3.  Desmodium triflorum‘s leaves and roots are sometimes used as green manure, the plant works to improve soil fertility by fixing nitrogen in the soil. It also increases organic matter in the soil with its dense foliage.
  4. It generates a very good amount of biomass. It is a great plant for soil enrichment and fertility.
  5. As a member of the Fabaceae family, Desmodium triflorum increases available nitrogen in the soil.
  6.  By covering the soil surface, Desmodium triflorum helps to retain water in the soil.

Medicinal uses of Desmodium triflorum

Research is still going on for this plant, as it has a lot of medicinal properties. It may have the potential to cure different types of diseases including tuberculosis and cancer!  But as more research comes in, we can expect some new findings with regard to Desmodium triflorum.

Traditional medicinal uses of Desmodium triflorum include-

  1. Some ancient people were using Desmodium triflorum as an herbal remedy to treat diarrhoea, painful urination and also for its anti-inflammatory properties.
  2. In traditional medicine, Desmodium triflorum is used as a diuretic, to treat pains and skin rashes. It helps in improving appetite too!  People also used this plant to cure syphilis and gonorrhoea. It improves the digestion system from the root level. Desmodium triflorum has diuretic properties, which help to eliminate toxins from the body through urine.
  3. There are many other species of Desmodium, some of which can be used to cure cancer.

In some tribes, Desmodium triflorum is used as a tea alternative. But, it is not so popular worldwide. In the 1800s, many species of  Desmodium were used by different tribes around the world for various medicinal purposes.

Desmodium triflorum has some toxic constituents as well! Major components of Desmodium triflorum are alkaloids, flavonoids and terpenoids with-

  • Antioxidant properties
  • Anti-inflammatory properties
  • Antiasthmatic properties.

Medicinal uses of Desmodium triflorum are still in the research phase, but it has great potential to cure different types of cancer! This plant may be used as a herbal remedy for different

It is still believed by some people that Desmodium triflorum has medicinal values to treat-

  • Dysentery
  • Fever
  • Malaria
  • Cough
  • Lung’s disease
  • Hepatitis
  • Pyrexia
  • Rheumatism
  • Piles etc.

There is not much scientific information of the effictiveness of this plant in curing the diseases. It is also believed that Desmodium triflorum can purify blood.


Despite the traditional beliefs and uses, please don’t use this plant by yourself, because-

  1. The toxic property of Desmodium triflorum is not yet been studied widely.
  2. No evidence is available to show any of these traditional uses.
  3. Toxins in this plant may cause damage to the liver, kidneys and even respiratory system.
  4. If you get any wound or cut while working with this plant, its toxic properties could harm your skin.
  5. Any natural plant including Desmodium triflorum may have allergic effects on your body.
  6. There are many look-alike plants in nature that are poisonous. If you use any plant that looks like Desmodium triflorum might be another poisonous plant.
  7. Any nontoxic plant may turn into a toxic one due to its surrounding environmental conditions.
  8. Make sure to consult with a professional herbal expert before using it.

Though usually considered a weed, Desmodium triflorumis is known for its medicinal values to some Indian and Chinese people and is being used for thousands of years. But, more scientific research is needed to be sure about its harmless medicinal use. So, please don’t try this at home.

How to control Desmodium triflorum

How to get rid of Desmodium triflorum?

Desmodium triflorum is usually a minor weed for crops and it is not as much invasive. Manual removal is enough to control this plant. If you find this weed around you in natural a habitat, please don’t destroy it. It might be a valuable medicinal plant.

If you are looking to use herbicides for controlling invasive weeds like Desmodium triflorum, then you should know that herbicides alone will not give you 100% weed-free garden. It is always a good idea to combine your efforts along with other physical methods like tilling and implementing other weeding tools.

If you are looking to choose herbicide products, then please keep in mind that there are many alternatives available like vinegar weed killer, soap-based herbicides and even animal manures. But try to avoid dangerous chemicals.

A B M Zahidul Hoque

I'm the owner of After completing my bachelor of science in agriculture, I have joined as a scientist at Bangladesh Jute Research Institute (BJRI) under the Ministry of Agriculture, Bangladesh. I started Weeds in Gardens to make you familiar with different weeds and their positive and negative aspects.

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