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There are considerable differences in the descriptions of Desmanthus in the literature (see Bogdan 1977; Skerman 1977; National Academy of Science 1979; Allen & Allen 1981; Reid 1983; Hacker 1990). For example, Reid (1983) says that Desmanthus virgatus ranges from "leggy" plants in the humid tropics to compact bushes in the semi-arid zones to prostrate in the montane zones; Allen and Allen (1981) state that Desmanthus grows to 3 metres; Hacker (1990) states that D. virgatus is an erect shrub 1.3 metres tall. All these views illustrate the great diversity and polymorphism within the genus and between species.
It contains about 24 species of herbs and shrubs that are sometimes described as being suffruiticose and have bipinnate leaves. Desmanthus is closely related to Leucaena and in appearance is similar to Neptunia. Like Mimosa and Neptunia, Desmanthus species fold their leaves in the evening. They are native to Mexico and North, Central and South America. Members of the genus are commonly known as bundleflowers.Of these three, only the cultivar Marc is still commercially available. In 2015 five new cultivars of Desmanthus named JCU 1 to JCU 5 have been granted PBR and are commercially available as a blend named "Progardes", consisting of D. bicornutus, D. leptophyllus and D. virgatus, these have been developed in Queensland Australia as a pasture legume for semi-arid tropical/subtropical alkaline clay soils. Progardes became available in 2013 in Northern Australia and some 35,000 to 50,000 ha has been already sown into native and buffelgrass pasture.
In its native range in the United States, the Land Institute is selectively breeding the widely distributed Illinois bundleflower (Desmanthus illinoensis) to be a perennial seed crop for human food, in addition to forage / pasture. It offers many of the advantages in terms of nutrition, protein and nitrogen fixation as soybeans or alfalfa, but as a perennial. Perennial crops tend to require less input of chemicals and energy, and less weed control, for comparable or higher yields to annuals in many systems.Hedge lucerne (Desmanthus virgatus (L.) Willd.) is a highly variable perennial legume. Morphology and habit range from a prostrate herbaceous plant, less than 50 cm high, to an erect or decumbent woody shrub, up to 2.5-3 m high (Gutteridge et al., 1994). It has a deep taproot and is strongly branched from the base. The stems are slender, pithy in the center, angular, green turning brown. The leaves are 2-8 cm long, compound, bipinnate, bearing 10-25 pairs of linear-oblong, 4-12 mm long x 1.5-3 mm broad leaflets. The inflorescence bears 9-11 whitish mimosoid flowers. The fruits are linear, dehiscent, 5.5-8.5 cm long pods. They contain 11-26 reddish-brown or golden-brown U-shaped seeds. Hedge lucerne is morphologically very similar to Leucaena leucocephala (also called koa haole) but it is smaller and bears smaller leaflets, hence one of its names "dwarf koa" (FAO, 2010; Cook et al., 2005). (Source: www.feedipedia.org)