Lespedeza violacea (L.) Pers.

Violet Lespedeza


CC = 6
CW = 5
MOC = 52

© SRTurner

Family - Fabaceae/Faboideae

Habit - Perennial forb.

Stem - Ascending to erect, to 1 m, 1-4 mm in diameter near the base, unbranched or branched only above the midpoint, sparsely to occasionally densely pubescent with relatively inconspicuous, appressed hairs, rarely nearly glabrous at maturity.

Lespedeza_violacea_stem.jpg Stem and nodes.

© SRTurner

Leaves - Alternate, trifoliate, petiolate, stipulate. Primary median leaves with the petiole most commonly relatively long and slender, 4-25 mm long, sparsely to densely appressed-to loosely appressed-hairy. Stipules 2-4 mm long, linear to hairlike. Leaflets 8-30 mm long, 3-17 mm wide (1.5-3.0 times as long as wide), broadly oblong to elliptic or obovate, those of the uppermost leaves sometimes oblanceolate, rounded to angled at the base, rounded to nearly truncate at the tip, the midvein usually extended as a minute, sharp point at the very tip, the upper surface glabrous or sparsely appressed-hairy near the midvein, the undersurface sparsely to moderately or occasionally densely appressed-hairy. Axillary leaves absent or poorly developed at some nodes.

Lespedeza_violacea_leaves1.jpg Stem and leaves.

© SRTurner

Lespedeza_violacea_leaf1.jpg Leaf adaxial.

© SRTurner

Lespedeza_violacea_leaflet2.jpg Leaflet abaxial.

© SRTurner

Lespedeza_violacea_stipules.jpg Stipules.

© SRTurner

Inflorescences - Axillary clusters from the upper leaves, often appearing axillary and terminal on short branches toward the main stem tip (the cleistogamous flowers generally appearing in short, dense, axillary clusters), usually unbranched, sometimes appearing leafy, shorter than or only slightly exceeding the leaves. Flowers mostly 4-10 per raceme.

Lespedeza_violacea_inflorescence1.jpg Inflorescences.

© SRTurner

Flowers - Calyces with the tube 1.5-2.0 mm long, the lobes 2-3 mm long. Corollas papilionaceous, 5-7 mm long, pinkish purple, the banner usually darker purple toward the base, the keel sometimes darker purple at the tip, distinctly shorter than the wings.

Lespedeza_violacea_calyces.jpg Calyces.

© SRTurner

Lespedeza_violacea_flowers1.jpg Flowers.

© SRTurner

Lespedeza_violacea_flowers2.jpg Flowers.

© SRTurner

Flowering - June - October.

Habitat - Forest openings, glades, savannas, tops of bluffs, upland prairies, fields, roadsides.

Origin - Native to the U.S.

Lookalikes - L. frutescens, L. virginica.

Other info. - This species of Lespedeza is found across much of Missouri but is apparently absent from the northwestern quadrant of the state. Beyond Missouri its range includes much of the eastern U.S. and Canada. The plant is recognized by clusters of small purplish flowers having the bean family motif, trifoliate compound leaves which are not very narrow, and stem pubescence which is flat and inconspicuous. A potential lookalike is L. frutescens, but that plant is usually less erect, and the flowers have keel petals which generally exceed the wing petals. In L. violacea the keels are shorter than the wings, as can be clearly seen in one of the flower images above.

The taxonomy of this group is somewhat confused, since the binomial Lespedeza violacea was long applied to a different plant, L. frutescens, which in turn was called L. intermedia. Revisions were applied after careful examination of type specimens, but confusion reigns as some botanists continue to refer to older keys and species circumscriptions, and authors are often omitted when taxa are used informally.

Photographs taken near Loda Lake, Newaygo County, MI, 8-27-2020 and 8-11-2022, and at Pea Ridge Conservation Area, Washington County, MO, 9-18-2020 (SRTurner).