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.