Lespedeza virginica (L.) Britt.

Slender Bush Clover

Lespedeza virginica plant

Family - Fabaceae

Stems - To 1m tall, herbaceous, erect, terete, from a woody caudex, glabrescent at the base, weakly striate, antrorse appressed pubescent apically (the pubescence more dense on the striations), mostly simple but laterally branching at anthesis.

Lespedeza virginica stem

Leaves - Alternate, stipulate, petiolate, trifoliolate. Stipules needle-like, reddish-brown, 4-5mm long, antrorse appressed pubescent. Swollen portion at the base of the petioles to 1.2mm long. Petioles and rachis antrorse appressed pubescent. Leaflets linear-oblong to linear-elliptic, +3 times longer than broad, entire, mucronate, with a single midrib, to +/-4cm long, +/-1cm broad, dull green adaxially, silvery-green abaxially, entirely antrorse appressed pubescent above and below.

Lespedeza virginica leavesPressed leaves.

Inflorescence - Axillary compact panicles to +/-1.5cm long. Each division of the inflorescence subtended by pair of needle-like bracts resembling the stipules of the leaves. Pedicels to 1.5mm long, antrorse pubescent.

Lespedeza virginica inflorescence

Flowers - Corolla papilionaceous, pinkish to purplish or sometimes whitish. Standard to 4mm broad, with darker purple splotches at the base. Keels connate basally and adnate to the wing petals basally, glabrous. Stamens diadelphous, white, glabrous. Anthers yellow, .1mm long. Ovary green, pubescent. Style upcurved at the apex, pubescent, to 3mm long in flower. Calyx green, weakly bilabiate, antrorse appressed pubescent. Tube to 1.1mm long. Upper lip 2-lobed. Lower lip 3-lobed. All lobes triangular-attenuate, longest to 1.2mm long.

Lespedeza virginica flowers

Lespedeza virginica fruitsDeveloping fruits.

Flowering - May - September.

Habitat - Rocky and dry open woods, gravel stream banks, thickets, prairies, bluffs, glades, roadsides, railroads.

Origin - Native to U.S.

Other info. - This common species can be found throughout Missouri. The plant and its seeds are eaten by a variety of wildlife and livestock. It can be identified by its leaves, which are 3 times longer than broad and pubescent on both surfaces, and its compact flowering clusters. Another species, L. intermedia (S. Wats.) Britt., can be very similar but has leaves which are either glabrous or, more commonly, only pubescent on the midrib and the leaf tissue within 1-2mm of the midrib. L. intermedia grows south of the Missouri River but can be found growing right next to L. virginica where the two plants overlap in range.

Photographs taken at the Peck Ranch Wildlife Refuge, Carter County, MO., 7-19-01.