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Classification System: APG IV

Superregnum: Eukaryota
Regnum: Plantae
Cladus: Angiosperms
Cladus: Eudicots
Cladus: Core eudicots
Cladus: Rosids
Cladus: Eurosids I
Ordo: Fabales

Familia: Fabaceae
Subfamilia: Faboideae
Tribus: Dalbergieae
Genus: Stylosanthes
Subgenera: S. subg. Styposanthes – S. subg. Stylosanthes

Species: S. angustifolia – S. biflora – S. bracteata – S. calcicola – S. campestris – S. capitata – S. erecta – S. falconensis – S. fruticosa – S. guianensis – S. hamata – S. hippocampoides – S. hispida – S. humilis – S. ingrata – S. leiocarpa – S. linearifolia – S. longicarpa – S. longiseta – S. macrocarpa – S. macrocephala – S. macrosoma – S. maracajuensis – S. mexicana – S. montevidensis – S. nervosa – S. quintanarooensis – S. recta – S. rostrata – S. ruellioides – S. salina – S. scabra – S. seabrana – S. sericeiceps – S. suffruticosa – S. sympodialis – S. tuberculata – S. vallsii – S. venezuelensis – S. viscosa
Source(s) of checklist:

Stylosanthes Sw., 1788

Type species: Stylosanthes procumbens Sw. LT designated by N. L. Britton et A. Brown, Ill. Fl. N.U.S. ed. 2. 2: 393 (1913)


Astyposanthes Herter

Native distribution areas:

Continental: America, Africa & Asia
Alabama, Angola, Argentina Northeast, Argentina Northwest, Arkansas, Aruba, Bahamas, Belize, Benin, Bolivia, Botswana, Brazil North, Brazil Northeast, Brazil South, Brazil Southeast, Brazil West-Central, Burkina, Burundi, Cameroon, Cape Verde, Cayman Is., Central African Repu, Chad, Colombia, Congo, Costa Rica, Cuba, Delaware, District of Columbia, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, El Salvador, Equatorial Guinea, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Florida, French Guiana, Gabon, Galápagos, Gambia, Georgia, Ghana, Guatemala, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Gulf of Guinea Is., Guyana, Haiti, Honduras, Illinois, India, Iowa, Ivory Coast, Jamaica, Kentucky, Kenya, KwaZulu-Natal, Leeward Is., Liberia, Louisiana, Madagascar, Malawi, Mali, Mauritania, Mexico Central, Mexico Gulf, Mexico Northeast, Mexico Northwest, Mexico Southeast, Mexico Southwest, Mississippi, Missouri, Mozambique, Namibia, Netherlands Antilles, New Jersey, New York, Nicaragua, Niger, Nigeria, North Carolina, Northern Provinces, Oklahoma, Oman, Panama, Paraguay, Peru, Puerto Rico, Rwanda, Saudi Arabia, Senegal, Sierra Leone, Somalia, South Carolina, Southwest Caribbean, Sri Lanka, Sudan, Suriname, Swaziland, Tanzania, Tennessee, Texas, Togo, Trinidad-Tobago, Turks-Caicos Is., Uganda, Uruguay, Venezuela, Venezuelan Antilles, Virginia, West Virginia, Windward Is., Yemen, Zambia, Zaïre, Zimbabwe
Introduced into:
Assam, Bangladesh, China Southeast, Christmas I., Cook Is., Fiji, Hainan, Hawaii, Jawa, Lesser Sunda Is., Malaya, Mauritius, Nepal, New Caledonia, New Guinea, New South Wales, Northern Territory, Philippines, Queensland, Rodrigues, Réunion, South Australia, Taiwan, Thailand, Western Australia

References: Brummitt, R.K. 2001. TDWG – World Geographical Scheme for Recording Plant Distributions, 2nd Edition
Primary references

Swartz, O. 1788. Nova genera & species plantarum seu Prodromus descriptionum vegetabilium, maximam partem incognitorum quae sub itinere in Indiam Occidentalem annis 1783–87 digessit Olof Swartz. M. D. X+152 pp., index. M.Swederi, Holmiae [Stockholm] etc. BHL Reference page. : 108

Additional references

Mohlenbrock, R.H. 1957: A revision of the genus Stylosanthes. Annals of the Missouri Botanical Garden 44(4): 299–355. JSTOR Reference page.


Govaerts, R. et al. 2020. Stylosanthes in Kew Science Plants of the World online. The Board of Trustees of the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew. Published on the internet. Accessed: 2020 Nov 14. Reference page.
International Plant Names Index. 2020. Stylosanthes. Published online. Accessed: Nov 14 2020. 2020. Stylosanthes. Missouri Botanical Garden. Published on the internet. Accessed: 2020 Nov14 {{{3}}}.
Catalogue of Life: 2021 Annual Checklist

Vernacular names
čeština: Stylosant
English: pencilflower
हिन्दी: स्टाइलो घाँस
中文: 笔花豆属

Stylosanthes is a genus of flowering plants in the legume family, Fabaceae and contains numerous highly important pasture and forage species. It was recently assigned to the informal monophyletic Pterocarpus clade of the Dalbergieae.[1][2] The common name pencilflower is sometimes used for plants in this genus.[3]


The genus is characterised by trifoliate leaves and small yellow flowers [4] Species may be annual or perennial and morphology varies between species as well as within species in response to grazing pressure. Some species such as S. scabra grow as a low woody shrub to 1.5 m, while others such as S. humilis will grow as a herbaceous shrub but can adopt a prostrate growth form and thrive under high grazing pressure.[5]
Stylosanthes scabra foliage and flowers, Central Queensland

Taxonomy and range

Taxonomy of the genus remains unsettled and controversial, with various authors favouring between 25 and 42 species, with at least 40 additional synonyms.[6] The taxonomy is complicated by the existence of numerous natural tetraploid and hybrid populations.[7] Species within the genus fall within two subgenera: Styposanthes and Stylosanthes. Styposanthes possess a small rudimentary secondary floral axis, which is absent from Stylosanthes.[8] Stylosanthes is closely related to the peanut genus Arachis.[6]

All except two species of the genus are native to the Americas. S. fruticosa has a native range that extends from South Africa to Ethiopia, across Arabian Peninsula to Pakistan, India and Sri Lanka[9] and S. erecta is endemic to Tropical Africa, from Tanzania to Senegal.[10] The putative species S. sundaica, has a range that encompasses Malesia but is considered by most authors to be an adventive polypoliod variety of S. humilis.[9] Ecological range extends from savanna and thorn scrub to tropical forest and montane forests.[6]


The following species are accepted:[11]

Stylosanthes angustifolia Vogel
Stylosanthes biflora (L.) Britton, Sterns & Poggenb.
Stylosanthes bracteata Vogel
Stylosanthes calcicola Small
Stylosanthes campestris M.B.Ferreira & Sousa Costa
Stylosanthes capitata Vogel
Stylosanthes erecta P.Beauv.
Stylosanthes falconensis Calles & Schultze-Kr.
Stylosanthes fruticosa (Retz.) Alston
Stylosanthes guianensis (Aubl.) Sw.
Stylosanthes hamata (L.) Taub.
Stylosanthes hippocampoides Mohlenbr.
Stylosanthes hispida Rich.
Stylosanthes humilis Kunth
Stylosanthes ingrata S.F.Blake
Stylosanthes leiocarpa Vogel
Stylosanthes linearifolia M.B.Ferreira & Sousa Costa
Stylosanthes longicarpa Brandão & Sousa Costa
Stylosanthes longiseta Micheli
Stylosanthes macrocarpa S.F.Blake
Stylosanthes macrocephala M.B.Ferreira & Sousa Costa
Stylosanthes macrosoma S.F.Blake
Stylosanthes maracajuensis Sousa Costa & Van den Berg
Stylosanthes mexicana Taub.
Stylosanthes montevidensis Vogel
Stylosanthes nervosa J.F.Macbr.
Stylosanthes quintanarooensis Gama & Dávila
Stylosanthes recta Vanni
Stylosanthes rostrata (Burkart) Vanni
Stylosanthes ruellioides Mart. ex Benth.
Stylosanthes salina Sousa Costa & Van den Berg
Stylosanthes scabra Vogel
Stylosanthes seabrana B.L.Maass & 't Mannetje
Stylosanthes sericeiceps S.F.Blake
Stylosanthes suffruticosa Mohlenbr.
Stylosanthes sympodialis Taub.
Stylosanthes tuberculata S.F.Blake
Stylosanthes vallsii Sousa Costa & Van den Berg
Stylosanthes venezuelensis Calles & Schultze-Kr.
Stylosanthes viscosa (L.) Sw.


Species within the genus have many properties that make them valuable forage species. They are capable of nitrogen fixation and are capable of improving soil fertility in addition to providing high protein stock feed.[12] The genus is also noted for its ability to extract phosphorus from soils where it is not available to other species.[13] Seeds are hard and long lived leading to high soil seed banks and rapid recovery following fire or heavy grazing. Seed survives passage through the gut of grazing animals and is dispersed widely in this manner allowing for rapid dispersal.[5] Many species are adapted to hot, dry climates and are drought resistant.[14]

These traits have made the genus the world’s most widely used tropical pasture legume.[14] Stylosanthes has been introduced across the tropical world as a pasture species. Its most important use has been in Australia where over a million hectares of primarily native pasture have been oversown with Stylosanthes species; primarily S. hamata, S. scabra and S. humilis [15] This can lead to a ten-fold increase in productivity, though 2–3 fold increases are normal.[5] Stylosanthes are the most important forage legumes in South America[16] and the most important pasture legumes of tropical India.[17] Stylosanthes are also important forage species in tropical Africa.[5]

Stylosanthes are important green manure species in West and Central Africa, primarily S. guianensis and S. hamata, and species are planted and harvested for commercial leaf meal production for poultry and pig feed in China and India. The genus has also been used as a nitrogen input into low input or organic cropping systems. Species are used as fallow species in Peru, Africa and Australia. S. hamata used for intercropping with grain crops in India and Africa with yield increases up to 25%.[5]

Stylosanthes species have been used for land reclamation, soil stabilization and soil regeneration work because of their drought resistance, ability to restore soil fertility, improve soil physical properties and provide permanent vegetation cover.[17][18][19][20]

Despite their ability to dramatically improve productivity in grazing lands, Stylosanthes can also cause problems. Stylosanthes can dominate pasture at the expense of grass which can lead to problems because the plants provides less protection from erosion than grass.[5] Stylosanthes dominance can also lead to soil acidification, as soil nitrate levels build up and are then leached down the soil profile.[21] Stylosanthes species are considered invasive species and environmental weeds in Australia, Taiwan, the Pacific Islands and Hawaii.[6] Many Stylosanthes species are susceptible to anthracnose fungus (Colletotrichum gloeosporioides) which retards growth and seed development,[5] and this had led to numerous commercial cultivars being abandoned.

1 2 4 7 8 10 Some sources treat Stylosanthes acuminata, Stylosanthes aurea, Stylosanthes campestris, Stylosanthes gracilis, Stylosanthes grandifolia, and/or Stylosanthes hippocampoides as synonyms of Stylosanthes guianensis.
3 Some sources treat Stylosanthes bahiensis as a synonym of Stylosanthes pilosa.
5 Some sources treat Stylosanthes cayennensis as a synonym of Stylosanthes hispida.
6 15 Some sources treat Stylosanthes figueroae and/or Stylosanthes sundaica as synonyms of Stylosanthes humilis.
9 Some sources treat Stylosanthes guineensis as a synonym of Stylosanthes erecta.
11 Some sources treat Stylosanthes macrosoma as a synonym of Stylosanthes montevidensis.
12 14 16 Some sources treat Stylosanthes nervosa, Stylosanthes suffruticosa, and/or Stylosanthes tuberculata as synonyms of Stylosanthes scabra.
13 Some sources treat Stylosanthes subsericea as a synonym of Stylosanthes macrocarpa.


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Cardoso D, Pennington RT, de Queiroz LP, Boatwright JS, Van Wyk B-E, Wojciechowskie MF, Lavin M (2013). "Reconstructing the deep-branching relationships of the papilionoid legumes". S Afr J Bot. 89: 58–75. doi:10.1016/j.sajb.2013.05.001.
"Stylosanthes". Natural Resources Conservation Service PLANTS Database. USDA. Retrieved 4 December 2015.
Sa R (萨仁); Salinas AD (2010). "笔花豆属" [61. Stylosanthes Swartz, Prodr. 7, 108. 1788.]. In Wu ZY (吴征镒); Raven PH; Hong DY (洪德元) (eds.). Flora Republicae Popularis Sinicae [Flora of China]. Vol. 10 (Fabaceae). Missouri Botanical Garden Press, St. Louis, and Science Press, Beijing. pp. 135–136. ISBN 9781930723917. Retrieved 12 February 2014.
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Maass B, Sawkins M (2004). "History, relationships and diversity among Stylosanthes species of commercial significance" (PDF). In Chakraborty S (ed.). High-Yielding Anthracnose-Resistant Stylosanthes for Agricultural Systems. Australian Centre for International Agricultural Research (ACIAR). pp. 9–26. ISBN 978-1-86320-442-2.
Gillies ACM, Abbott RJ (1996). "Phylogenetic relationships in the genus Stylosanthes (Leguminosae) based upon chloroplast DNA variation". Plant Syst Evol. 200 (3–4): 193–211. doi:10.1007/BF00984935. S2CID 28591537.
Chandra A. (2009). "Diversity among Stylosanthes species: Habitat, edaphic and agro-climatic affinities leading to cultivar development" (PDF). J Environ Biol. 30 (4): 471–478. PMID 20120482.
Cook B, Pengelly B, Brown S, Donnelly J, Eagles D, Franco A, Hanson J, Mullen B, Partridge I, Peters M, Schultze-Kraft R (2005). "Tropical Forages entry for Stylosanthes". Tropical Forages. CSIRO Sustainable Ecosystems (CSIRO), the Department of Primary Industries and Fisheries (DPI&F Queensland), el Centro Internacional de Agricultura Tropical (CIAT), and the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI). Retrieved 12 February 2014.
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Kretschmer AE, Pitman WD (2001). "4. Germplasm Resources of Tropical Forage Legumes". In Sotomayor-Ríos A, Pitman WD (eds.). Tropical Forage PLants: Development and Use. CRC Press LLC, Boca Raton, Florida. pp. 41–58. doi:10.1201/9781420038781.ch4. ISBN 978-0849323188.
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