Illinois Bundleflower (Desmanthus illinoensis)

Illinois Bundleflower (Desmanthus illinoensis)
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Illinois Bundleflower

Illinois Bundleflower

Recommended for use in range seedings and for wildlife food and cover. Illinois bundleflower is a nutritious plant and is readily eaten by all classes of livestock, deer and pronghorn antelope. It decreases under heavy grazing and is an important range condition indicator. Its seeds are readily consumed by birds and rodents. It is considered one of the most important native prairie legumes. It is frequently used in range revegetation projects.  Illinois bundleflower was a minor medical plant for Native Americans. The Omaha and Ponca tribes called it rattle plant because the seeds in the dried pods were used by children as rattles while imitating the dance rituals of adults. Pawnees used the boiled plant leaves to produce a wash which was used to relieve itching. Illinois bundleflower is a warm season, self-pollinating, herbaceous, perennial, leguminous forb. Multiple stems grow from a woody caudex which is attached to the perennial root system of this legume species. Stems are glabrous, angled, longitudinally grooved and erect. The plant stands .6 to 1.3 meters in height. Its bipinnately compound leaves are alternately attached to the stem. Leaves are sensitive to external stimuli such as sunlight or touch which causes infolding of the leaflets. Flowers are white and five parted with 5 sepals, petals and stamens. The peduncles or stalks supporting the inflorescences are located in the leaf axil. The white globose heads produce clustered flat scythe-shaped pods which are slightly spirally twisted. Two to several seeds are contained within the dry dehiscent pods. The dark brown pods are broadly oblong and flat being 3 to 4 times longer than wide. Seeds are brown and 3 to 5 mm long, nearly as wide and mature in August. Desmanthus illinoensis is the most widely distributed of Desmanthus species in the United States. It ranges southward from South Dakota and Minnesota through Colorado, New Mexico and Texas, and eastward to Ohio, Kentucky, Tennessee, and the Carolinas and into Florida. It is found on rocky, open wooded slopes, prairies, ravines, stream banks, roadsides and waste places. The great diversity of habitats in which it is found indicates a wide temperature and moisture tolerance. Natural populations are most often found in prairie remnants, glades, sloughs, woodlands edges, and disturbed areas in the east. In the west it is found in moist alkaline bottoms, rocky open woods, grasslands, and along streams and rivers. Soil acidity or alkalinity did not appear to be a significant edaphic factor in the distribution of Illinois bundleflower, since stands were found in more or less equal abundance on  both sandstone and limestone parent material soils. It thrives on medium textured soils and is tolerant of most except coarse sands and heavy clays. It has fair tolerance to burning in the dormant state and will grow less vigorously in shady situations. More vigorous and more abundant growth is realized in 50+ cm rain fall zones. Good drought tolerance can be expected in open communities with reduced levels of competition. Bundleflower is normally found in association with native warm season grasses. It is easily established from seed, and may be seeded alone at a drill depth of 1.27 to 2.54 cm deep on heavier, moister soil and sandy or drier soils, respectively. Plant into a prepared seed bed or dead stubble for mulch may help establishment. Additional mulch and irrigation will aid establishment on critical sites or tough mine spoil sites. Plantings made in early to mid spring time would provide the seedlings optimum moisture, while late fall or winter planting would pre-chill and stimulate better germination of “hard” legume seed. The inclusion of legumes improved crude protein (CP) concentrations of forages compared to that of grasses alone. However, forage samples containing the legumes roundhead lespedeza and Illinois bundleflower showed lower In vitro dry matter digestibility (IVDMD) than grasses alone. This may be influenced by the amount of tannins accumulated by the legume species. Tannin concentration can limit digestibility of forages in high concentrations. [table “” not found /]

Illinois Bundleflower at a Glance
TypeLightSeed DepthSeed SpacingDays to SproutPlant SpacingPlant Height
PerennialFull Sun1/8"1"7-2112-24"24-60"
Seeds per Pound 60,000Seeding Rate 8 oz per 1,000 sq ft

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