Synonym(s): Lespedeza juncea var. sericea, Lespedeza sericea
Family: Fabaceae (Pea Family)
Duration and Habit: Perennial Subshrub
Perennial ascending-to-upright leguminous forb, 3 to 6 feet (1 to 2 m) in height, with one-to-many leafy slender stems often branching at midplant, three-leaflet leaves, and tiny whitish flowers. Plant arising from a woody rootcrown. Dormant brown plants remaining upright during most of the winter.
Ecological Threat: Chinese lespedeza, sometimes called sericea lespedeza, is primarily a threat to open areas such as meadows, prairies, open woodlands, wetland borders and fields. Once it gains a foothold, it can crowd out native plants and develop an extensive seed bank in the soil, ensuring its long residence at a site. Established dense stands of lespedeza suppress native flora and its high tannin content makes it unpalatable to native wildlife as well as livestock.
Biology & Spread: Chinese lespedeza begins growth from root crown buds at the base of last year?s stem. The flowers begin to develop in late July and continue through October. Within the Lespedeza genus there are no specialized structures for seed dispersal. Dispersal is aided by animals consuming the fruits and passing the seeds. A study on natural populations found that several species of Lespedeza comprise 1.5% to 86.8% of the annual diet of bobwhite quail in the southeastern U.S. Autumn dispersal is aided by the haying of infested fields.
Scarification is necessary for the germination of lespedeza seeds. Mature seeds of this genus remain viable for up to twenty years; one study found a germination rate of 60% after cold storage for 55 years. Seedlings may represent only 1% of the seeds actually available in the soil.
History: Introduced from Japan in 1899?first near Arlington, VA, and soon afterwards in north-central Tennessee?and escaped. Benefited from government programs that promoted plantings for erosion control. Still planted for quail food plots and soil stabilization. Plant improvement breeding programs still underway.
U.S. Habitat: Occurs in new and older forest openings, dry upland woodlands to moist savannas, old fields, right-of-ways, and cities. Flood tolerant. Forms dense stands by sprouting stems from rootcrowns that prevent forest regeneration and land access. Cross- and self-pollinates. Spreads slowly from plantings by seeds that have low germination, but remain viable for decades. Nitrogen fixer.
U.S. Nativity: Introduced to U.S.
Native Origin: China, Korea, Japan, Formosa, and Himalayas (Alfred Rehder, Manual of Cultivated Trees and Shrubs: Hardy in North America, The MacMillan Co., New York (1967)); China, Japan (Bailey, L.H. and E.Z. Bailey, Hortus Third: A Concise Dictionary of Plants Cultivated in the United States and Canada, MacMillan Publishing Co., Inc., New York , (1977).); NatureServe Explorer
U.S. Present: AL, AR, CT, DE, FL, GA, HI, IA, IL, IN, KS, KY, LA, MA, MD, MI, MO, MS, NC, NE, NJ, NY, OH, OK, PA, SC, TN, TX, VA, WI, WV
Distribution: Chinese lespedeza is now found throughout the U.S.
List All Observations of Lespedeza cuneata reported by Citizen Scientists
Although not a popular ornamental in the U.S., some suitable native alternatives for Chinese lespedeza include butterflyweed (Asclepias tuberosa), joe-pye weed (Eupatorium dubium), black-eyed Susan (Rudbeckia fulgida), big blue stem (Andropogon gerardii), or Indian grass (Sorghastrum nutans). Other alternatives include blue or yellow wild indigo (Baptisia australis or tinctoria), partridge pea (Cassia fasciculata), Virginia wild rye (Elymus virginicus), little bluestem (Schizachyrium scoparium), wild senna (Senna hebecarpa or marilandica). Contact your state native plant society for further suggestions for plants native to your particular locale.
Mechanical and chemical methods are the most effective options currently available for Chinese lespedeza. Hand pulling is impractical due to lespedza?s extensive perennial root system. Mowing plants in the flower bud stage for two or three consecutive years may reduce the vigor of lespedeza stands and control further spread. Plants should be cut as low to the ground as possible and impact to adjacent native plants should be minimized as much as possible.USE PESTICIDES WISELY: ALWAYS READ THE ENTIRE PESTICIDE LABEL CAREFULLY, FOLLOW ALL MIXING AND APPLICATION INSTRUCTIONS AND WEAR ALL RECOMMENDED PERSONAL PROTECTIVE GEAR AND CLOTHING. CONTACT YOUR STATE DEPARTMENT OF AGRICULTURE FOR ANY ADDITIONAL PESTICIDE USE REQUIREMENTS, RESTRICTIONS OR RECOMMENDATIONS. MENTION OF PESTICIDE PRODUCTS ON THIS WEB SITE DOES NOT CONSTITUTE ENDORSEMENT OF ANY MATERIAL.
Altom, J.V., J.F. Stritzke, D.L. Weeks. 1992. Sericea lespedeza (Lespedeza cuneata). Control with Selected Postemergence Herbicides. Weed Technology Journal of the Weed Science Society of America 6(3):573-576.
Guernsey, W.J. 1977. Sericea lespedeza (Lespedeza cuneata): Its Use and Management. U.S. Department of Agriculture Farmers Bulletin No. 2245, 29 pp.
Hoveland, C.S., W.B. Anthony, E.L. Carden, J.K. Boseck, W.B. Webster. 1975. Sericea-grass Mixtures. Auburn University Alabama Agriculture Experiment Station Circular 221, 12 pp.
Hoveland, C.S., G.A. Buchanan, E.D. Donnelly. 1971. Establishiment of Sericea lespedeza; Weed Science 19: 21-24.
Hoveland, C.S., G.A. Buchanan, E.D. Donnelly. 1970. Establishing Sericea lespedeza at Low Seeding Rate with a Herbicide; Auburn University Agriculture Experiment Station Circular 174, 11 pp.
Hoveland, C.S. and E.D. Donnelly. 1985. The Lespedezas. In M.E. Heath, R.F. Barnes, and D.S. Metcalfe, eds. Forages: the Science of Grassland Agriculture. Iowa State Press, Ames, Iowa.
Pieters, A.J. 1950. Sericea and Other Perennial Lespedezas for Forage and Soil Conservation; U.S. Department Agriculture Circular 863, 48 p.
Rietveld, W.J. 1983. Allelopathic Effects of Juglone on Germination and Growth of Several Herbaceous and woody Species Juglans nigra, Lonicera maackii, Lespedeza cuneata, Trifolium incarnatum, Alnus glutinosa, Elaeagnus umbellata; Journal of Chemical Ecology 9(2): 295-308.
Smith, A.E. and G.V. Calvert. 1987. Weed Control in Sericea Lespedeza. University of Georgia Experiment Station Research Bulleitn 357, 12 p.
Wolf, D.D. and Dove, D.C. 1987. Grazaing Preference for Low Tannin Sericea Lespedeza; Proceedings of the Forage Grassland Conference, Lexington, Kentucky, p. 216-219.
Yonce, M.H. and W.A. Skroch. 1989. Control of Selected Perennial Weeds with Glyphosate. Weed Science 37(3):360-364.
APWG WeedUS Database
Miller, J.H. 2003. Nonnative invasive plants of southern forests: a field guide for identification and control. Gen. Tech. Rep. SRS-62. Asheville, NC: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Southern Research Station. 93 pp (USDA SRS).
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