Marc desmanthus

Scientific name(s)
Desmanthus virgatus


  • Drought tolerant and very persistent in low rainfall
  • Tolerant of heavy grazing.
  • Heavy seed production even under grazing and
    can thicken through seedling recruitment.
  • Tolerant of alkaline clay


  • Very high level of hardseed, requires treatment before planting.
  • Specific rhizobium
  • High leaf loss under dry or cold conditions.

Plant description

Plant: An erect perennial herb or small shrub, growing to 60 cm tall.

Stems: Green and hairless, angular with corky ridges.

Leaves: Bipinnate usually with 2-4 pairs of pinnae, leaflets small (2.4-7.0mm long and 0.7-1.6mm wide) with 13 to 19 pairs of leaflets/pinnae, a yellow/green gland on petiole below first pair of pinnae.

Flowers: Small white/cream in bundles.

Pods: Straight up to 60mm long, 2-valved, pale green when immature and mid brown when ripe, containing 18 to 28 seeds.

Seeds: Small, mid to dark brown, oval shaped, about 400,000 seeds/kg.

Pasture type and use

A long lived legume used with a range of native and planted grasses in permanent pasture systems.

Where it grows

550 to 1000 mm AAR.

Suited to medium to heavy textured clay soils with neutral to alkaline pH, such as brigalow clays, open downs and heavier alluvial soils. Some tolerance to sodic and saline soils.

Defoliated by heavy frosts but regrows quickly when moisture is adequate in spring.


Companion species
Grasses: Floren bluegrass, Strickland finger grass, digit grass, buffel grass, rhodes grass, Bambatsi panic, Queensland bluegrass.

Sowing/planting rates as single species
Not recommended for planting as a single species.

Sowing/planting rates in mixtures
1 to 2 kg/ha of scarified seed planted no deeper than 20mm.

Sowing time
Spring to summer.

Specific inoculum (CB3126).


Maintenance fertiliser
Depending on soil analysis may respond to P, S, Mo, Cu and Mn.

Tolerant of heavy grazing.

Ability to spread
Limited. It has no unique characteristics that allow it to spread. It is early flowering and has high seed yields which result in high soil seed reserves. This leads to thickening in planted areas and slow spread from original plantings. There is likely to be some ingestion of ripe pods and spread by grazing animals.

Weed potential
Minor in disturbed areas.

Major pests
Psyllid insects (Accizia spp.) can cause leaf yellowing and reduce seed yields.

Major diseases
None known.

Herbicide susceptibility
No information available.

Animal production

Feeding value
Leaf is high in crude protein (18-24%) and has high digestibility (Acid detergent fibre of < 20%).

Well eaten through the growing season.

Production potential
In the 650 to 750mm rainfall zone forage yields can be up to 2500kg/ha/year. In perennial grass–legume pastures yields of about 1000kg/ha/year are the norm. Steer liveweight gains of 160 to 240 kg/head/year have been measured on grass-desmanthus pasture. Increased wool production when fed as a supplement to sheep grazing Mitchell grass pastures.

Livestock disorders/toxicity
None known. Plants have relatively high tannin levels.


PS 401 release 2016
PS 402 release 2016