Sericea Lespedeza , Chinese Bushclover

Lespedeza cuneata (DuMont) G. Don

Fabaceae (Legume family)


Sericea Lespedeza is a shrubby, deciduous perennial of the Legume family (Fabaceae).  It can grow up to 5 ft or 1.5 m tall and has widely branching roots that can go down three feet into the soil. A native of Asia and eastern Australia, it is widely cultivated and escaped throughout the southeastern United States.  The coarse gray-green stems of Sericea Lespedeza exhibit lines of hair and may grow singly or in clusters. New growth each year comes from buds on the stem bases a few inches below ground. The initially succulent stems become fibrous by the time they reach 16 inches or 40 cm tall. Plants even a few years old can have as many as 30 stems and may live 20 years, thus producing large stands.    The stems and branches are dense with wedge-shaped leaves. The thin, alternate, abundant, trifoliate leaves are about 1 inch or 2.5 cm in length and 1,1 inches or 2.7 cm in width. Their wedge-shaped bases (cuneate) give the species name “cuneata” and are unique in the Lespedeza genus. Each leaflet is round at the top with a point at the tip. The lower leaf surface has silky hairs. The flowers are yellowish white and have throats with purple to pink markings; they appear from mid-July to early October in clusters of two to four from the leaf axils. The resulting flat, ovate to round, single-seeded pod is about 3 to 4 mm wide bearing persistent sepals.  The forage value is fair for livestock and good for wildlife. However, the plant can be invasive, eliminating or reducing native plants. 


Sericea Lespedeza grows in ditches, along fence rows, and on disturbed rangeland and pastures. It is best established in disturbed areas with minimal vegetation. Originally introduced for erosion control, revegetation, and forage in abandoned mine sites, it has become highly invasive out-competing native vegetation. It grows best on deep well-drained medium to coarse soils. It needs about 30 inches of rain annually.