Grona triflora: Creeping tick trefoil

Family: Fabaceae
Common name: Creeping tick trefoil, Three-flower tick trefoil, Tropical trefoil, Three-flower beggarweed, Matty desmodium, Desmodium triflorum

Creeping tick trefoil plants look like an old gentleman with white streaks running through their leaves, and white hairs covering the stem. But they are anything but old or slow.

These active, little plants can be seen in the wild in tropical weather, growing to merely a few centimeters above the ground, but spreading quickly with their long stems, capable of rooting at the nodes. Stems are pinkish-red and covered with long white hairs.

Leaves are trifoliate with 3 leaflets, in a triangular pattern, each leaflet about .5-1 cm long. Creeping tick trefoil leaves are dark green with streaks of white or light green running along the center.

Flower are pink or light purple in color, growing singly or in a bunch of 3 to 5. Flowers are typical of Fabaceae family with one large petal standing upright, and small wing petals fused together.

These plants produce small pod-like fruits that are 1.2-1.4 cms long, growing in small bunches of 2-3. Creeping tick trefoil plants are seen on roadsides, backyards, open areas, hillsides, grasslands and almost anywhere, spreading quickly forming large green mats.

They are preferred by grazing animals who occasionally give these plants a good haircut, but do not pull out the roots completely. The pesky little plants grow right back, and are hence considered invasive in most parts of the world.

But they also have some uses. Belonging to the pea family of Fabaceae, their roots have nitrogen-fixing bacteria that can convert atmospheric nitrogen into nitrates and nitrites that are easily absorbed by other plants.

These plants can also help prevent soil erosion through their dense foliage and roots that hold the topsoil together during rainy season. Creeping tick trefoil plants also have some medicinal uses in the treatment of fever, dysentery, rheumatism, stomach pain, skin problems, ulcers and wounds.

These plants are very sturdy and can grow in full sunlight or complete shade, thriving in the most adverse soil and weather conditions. They are not preferred as ornamental or garden plants because of their small, inconspicuous foliage and flowers.

Though, if there is a ledge or slope where the soil constantly erodes, these is no better solution that growing these little creepers.

Propagation is through seeds and stem cuttings that readily root at the nodes.