This section is from the book "The Standard Cyclopedia Of Horticulture Vol2", by L. H. Bailey. See also: Western Garden Book: More than 8,000 Plants - The Right Plants for Your Climate - Tips from Western Garden Experts.
(Greek, a band or chain; referring to the jointed pods). By some called Meibomia. Legumi-nbsse. Tick Trefoil. Mostly herbs, upwards of 170 species, in temperate and warm regions of Amer., Asia, Africa and Austral. Leaves pinnate, with 3-5 (rarely 1) leaflets: flowers small and papilionaceous, in terminal or axillary racemes in summer, mostly purple; calyx with a short tube, more or less 2-lipped; standard broad; wings joined to the keel: pod flat, deeply lobed or jointed, the joints often breaking apart and adhering to clothing and to animals by means of small hooked hairs. Fig. 1244. A number of species are native to N. Amer., and are sometimes grown in the hardy border, where they thrive under ordinary conditions. One hothouse species, D. gyrans, is sometimes cult, for its odd moving leaflets D. penduliflorum and D. japonicum will be found under Lespedeza. Several of the native species are worthy of cultivation, but are practically unknown in the trade. The following have been offered by collectors: D. canadense, DC. (Fig. 1244); D. cuspidatum, Hook.; D. Dillenii, Dark; D. marilandicum, Boott; D. nudiflorum, DC; D. paniculatum, DC; D. pauci-florum, DC; D. sessilifolium, Torr. & Gray. The Florida beggarweed is Desmodium tortuosum, DC, of the W. Indies. It is coming into prominence in the S. as a forage plant (see Cyclo. Amer. Agric, Vol. II, p. 214).
Two Chinese shrubby species have recently been introduced to Eu.: D. amethyslinum, Dunn, growing 3-5 ft.: leaves 3-foliolate, the leaflets elliptic, 4-7 in. long: flowers amethystine, 1/2in. long, in a terminal panicle. D. cinerascens, Franco.., not Gray: broad bush, 3 ft. high, densely leafy: leaves large, the leaflets lozenge-shaped: flowers rosy lilac to violet, in many racemes, produced in June and again in Sept.
The greenhouse species, D. gyrans, is of tolerably easy culture. It requires stove temperature, and, although a perennial, it is best treated as an annual. The best method of propagation is by seeds. These should be sown in February in a light, sandy soil, in 4-inch pots, and placed in a warm, close atmosphere, where they will soon germinate. The seedlings should be potted 6ingly into small pots as soon as large enough to handle and grown on as rapidly as possible, using a mixture of good, fibrous loam and leaf soil in about equal proportions. By midsummer they will be good bushy plants, and, though not showy, they are very interesting. (Edward J. Canning.)
DC. Telegraph Plant. Undershrub, 2-4 ft. high, with 3 oblong or elliptic leaflets, the small lateral ones (which are almost linear) moving in various directions when the temperature is congenial, and especially in the sunshine: flowers purple or violet, in racemes and terminal racemose panicles. Ceylon to the Himalayas and the Philippines. - Grown occasionally as a curiosity, particularly in botanical collections. See Darwin's "Power of Movement in Plants," and various botanical treatises, for fuller accounts. L. H. B.