Illinois bundleflower, Desmanthus illinoensis (Michaux) MacMillan, is an herbaceous perennial legume native to the central and southeastern USA. It has been identified as a potential perennial grain legume. To describe variation among natural populations for agriculturally desirable characteristics, 141 accessions of D. illinoensis and one of D. leptolobus were evaluated in common garden plantings established in 1988 and 1990. Characteristics showing diversity among populations included seed yield, plant height, growth habit, days to maturity, 100 seed weight, and shatter resistance. Eight characteristics were analyzed by principal components and cluster analysis. The resulting four clusters accounted for 56% of the variation among accessions. One cluster was distinctive in having plants with vigorous, prostrate first year growth, poor winter hardiness, and large seed. Three accessions also had indehiscent legumes useful for breeding shatter resistance. There appears to be sufficient variation to support genetic improvement of agricultural characteristics of Illinois bundleflower.