SHOWY TICK TREFOIL Desmodium canadense

The Psalmist expressed praise of the Almighty God by noting His great strength when he said, “Thou art the God who works wonders; thou hast made known Thy strength among the peoples.” (Ps. 77:14)

Today we look at one tough weed. It is hearty and covers us with thorns. How it arrived here is one of the wonders of God’s creation. It reflects a strength that reminds us of the Creator. Even the thorns remind us that evil deeds result in painful consequences.


Desmodium canadense

The showy tick trefoil is an anomaly. It possesses beauty when it blooms, but during the winter its clinging seeds make it a very irritating pest. Furthermore, it is alien to the Deep South.

In the summer this wildflower competes with ragweed and goldenrod for space in ditches and waste places. The ragweed has rather nondescript tiny pale green blooms; however, its plants are tall and their branches demand about as much space in width as in height. The goldenrod, on the other hand, commands attention with brilliant golden blooms that dance in the breeze. This leaves the showy tick trefoil to a less noticed state.

The rose-pink flowers are about 1/2 inch long and shaped like the pea bloom with two upright “ears” and a large “nose” that hangs down. They appear in clusters at the top of each stem and at the end of the upper branches. The plants often grow to a height of 4 feet. The leaves are ovate in sets of three, as pictured.

Showy tick trefoil plants are normally found from Virginia to Missouri and northward. When I first identified them in northern Rockdale County they were in large patches, about 10 x 30 feet. The distinguishing feature is in the seed pod that contains as many as seven segments.

When you walk through an area in the late fall where this plant has flourished, your pant legs became covered with triangular seeds. Some are attached as a single seed while others cling as the full set. The more you brush them, the harder they seem to cling. In desperation, I have to sit down and pick them off one at a time. That’s the ultimate infliction of this plant that leads to another name, “beggar’s ticks.”

How do such wildflowers that primarily inhabit another environment get into our area? In our highly mobile society, the possibilities are almost limitless. The ability to cling to fabric could mean seeds came attached to clothing, ropes, tents, or cargo covers on trucks. The attachment to migrating animals and fowl is another possibility, as is interstate transportation of low-cost ground cover.

Wildflowers that belong in another environment may appear sporadically, but it is rare that they become locally established. Such unpredictability is not the case with God’s love, forgiveness and His promise of eternal life.

Jesus taught that God is loving, forgiving, and redeeming, as quoted in John 3:16-17, “For God so loved the world, that he gave his one and only son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him” (NIV).

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Orrin Morris is a retired Baptist minister, local artist and art teacher. Email him at odmsketchingpad@yahoo.com.


I have been editor of the Rockdale Citizen since 1996 and editor of the Newton Citizen since it began publication in 2004. I am also currently executive editor of the Clayton News Daily, Henry Daily Herald and Jackson Progress-Argus.

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