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Kevin Doyle

Prairie Bush Clover (Lespedeza leptostachya)

Life history

Species overview

Prairie Bush Clover (Lespedeza leptostachya), a Wisconsin Endangered and Federal Threatened plant, is found in gravelly or sandy hillside prairies. Blooming occurs late July through late August; fruiting occurs early August through early September. The optimal identification period for this species is throughout August.

Synonyms: None


  • Distinguishing characteristics: Spikes loose, interrupted; flowers 4 to 6 mm.
  • Flower characteristics: Spikes slender, loose and interrupted, 2 to 3 cm long on peduncles 1 to 2 cm long; flowers 4 to 6 mm, ochre-colored; corolla about equal to the calyx.
  • Fruit characteristics: Densely hairy, equal to the calyx.
  • Leaf characteristics: Leaflets narrowly oblong, 2 to 4 cm long by 3 to 7 mm wide, obtuse and tipped with a short, sharp, abrupt point, sparsely hairy above, silky beneath; petioles 4 to 10 mm long.


  • Blooming phenology: late July through late August
  • Fruiting phenology: early August through early September
  • Optimum time to identify: The optimal identification period for this species is throughout August


  • Growth form: Forb-erect
  • Vegetative reproduction:
  • Life cycle: Perennial
  • Comments: Associated Species: Andropogon gerardii, Bouteloua curtipendula, Lespedeza capitata, Poa compressa, Bromus inermis, Prunus serotina, Lonicera tatarica.

State status

Status and Natural Heritage Inventory documented occurrences in Wisconsin

The table below provides information about the protected status - state and federal - and the rank (S and G Ranks) for Prairie Bush Clover (Lespedeza leptostachya). See the Working List Key for more information about abbreviations. Counties shaded blue have documented occurrences for this species in the Wisconsin Natural Heritage Inventory database. The map is provided as a general reference of where this species has been found to date and is not meant as a range map.

Documented locations of Lespedeza leptostachya in the Natural Heritage Inventory Database as of July 2015.

Summary Information
State StatusEND
Federal Status in WisconsinLT
State RankS2
Global RankG3
Tracked by NHIY

Habitats and landscapes

The Natural Heritage Inventory has developed scores indicating the degree to which each of Wisconsin's rare plant species is associated with a particular natural community or ecological landscape. This information is similar to that found in the Wildlife Action Plan for animals. As this is a work in progress, we welcome your suggestions and feedback.

General habitat information

  • Habitat description: Found in gravelly or sandy hillside prairies.
  • Soils: Dry, sandy or gravelly soils.

Natural communities

This table lists the natural communities that are associated with Prairie Bush Clover. Scores for natural community associations are: "significant" association (score=3), "moderate association" (score=2) or the species can be present but is only weakly associated with the community (score=1).

Natural communities score
Dry Prairie 3
Dry-mesic Prairie 3
Mesic Prairie 2

Ecological landscapes

This table lists the ecological landscape association scores for Prairie Bush Clover. The scores (3=High, 2=Moderate, 1=Low, 0=None) also correspond to the map.

Map of the Ecological Landscapes of Wisconsin.

Species guidance

The Endangered Resources Program has developed avoidance measures and management guidelines for plants on the Natural Heritage Working List. These are a work in progress, and we welcome your suggestions and feedback. Sources used in developing this information can be found here.

Avoidance measures

These are specific actions designed to avoid "take" (mortality) of this species.

  • Avoid known individual plant locations and conduct operations elsewhere when they are least likely to cause damage. Ideally, this would involve frozen, snow-covered ground. However, in areas of the state where frozen conditions are unreliable, very dry soils late in the growing season might be the best available alternative. Consult with a biologist, if needed.
  • Avoid broadcast spraying of herbicides; use care with spot spraying.

Management guidance

Management guidelines are additional considerations that may help maintain or enhance habitat for this species

  • Survey for and control invasive plants prior to conducting timber operations, as these can be spread by vehicles and often respond vigorously to increased light; see forestry BMPs for invasive species.
  • Prescribed burns and/or brushing may be beneficial (dependent on local site conditions).
  • Maintain and restore open habitat through selective clearing and brushing.


Prairie Bush Clover Photo.

Prairie bush-clover is a globally rare prairie obligate.

Photo by Thomas Meyer, Wisconsin DNR.

Prairie Bush Clover Photo.

Photo © William S. Alverson.

Prairie Bush Clover Photo.

Photo © Abbie Meyer.

Support for Wisconsin's rare plant information has been provided by the Division of Forestry, the Endangered Resources Fund and the Wisconsin Rare Plant Preservation Fund. To donate, visit the Natural Resources Foundation of Wisconsin [exit DNR].

Last revised: Wednesday, May 05, 2021
Southwest Savanna Southern Lake Michigan Coastal Western Coulees and Ridges Southeast Glacial Plains Central Sand Hills Central Lake Michigan Coastal Central Sand Plains Northern Lake Michigan Coastal Northern Lake Michigan Coastal Northeast Sands Western Prairie North Central Forest Northern Highlands Northwest Lowlands Northwest Sands Northwest Lowlands Superior Coastal Plains Forest Transition