Sericea lespedeza Lespedeza cuneata (Dum. Cours.) G. Don
Family: Fabiaceae (Bean family)
Life cycle: Perennial reproducing by seed.
Habitat: Pastures, prairies, roadsides. More common in southern Iowa. A relatively recent introduction, it is rapidly spreading in the state at this time.
Native status: Introduced for forage and for soil reclamation in the southern US.
General description: Erect, bushy perennial reaching heights of 2 to 5 ft. Trifoliate leaves with short petiole, leaflets club or wedge-shaped, ¼ to 1 in long. The end of the leaf is round or flat with a conspicuous tip at the point. Leaves are dense, and decrease in size moving up the stem. Small, white-yellow flower occur in clusters of 1 to 3 in upper leaf axils.
Key ID traits: Densely leaved stems; wedge shape leaflets with point at tip
Similar species: Several native and introduced lespedeza are found in the Midwest. Slender lespedeza is most similar to sericea lespedeza, but its leaflets are linear or elliptical without the point at tip.
Miscellaneous: Was introduced as a forage species and for cover on rights-of-ways. Seed can still be purchased, but the plant is listed as a noxious weed in several states (not Iowa). Also called Chinese lespedeza and Chinese bush clover. One of the most damaging plants in prairie restorations.