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Sericea lespedeza

Sericea lespedeza (Lespedeza cuneata)

Herbaceous perennial, 2-4’ tall with multiple stems that die back to the ground each year. Stems are stiff and angled about 45^O from the ground or from each other and die back to the ground each year. Stems are light green, strongly ridged, covered with white hairs. Lower stems become brown and woody and lose most of their hairs as they mature.


Regulated areas of sericea lespedeza
Sericea lespedeza is Prohibited (Red counties)

Other names for this plant include:

  • Common names: silky bush clover, Chinese bush clover, perennial lespedeza
  • Scientific names: L. sericea; L. juncea ssp. sericea; Anthyllis cuneata

Ecological threat:

  • It is tolerant of many habitat types: fields, roadsides, upland woods and prairie restorations.
  • It forms dense colonies that crowds out native vegetation and sericea lespedeza produces an extensive seed bank.

Classification in Wisconsin: Prohibited

Species Assessment Groups (SAG) were assembled to recommend a legal classification for each species considered for NR 40. The recommendation for sericea lespedeza was based upon this literature review developed by the department.


Leaves: The alternate compound leaves are trifoliate with short petioles. Leaflets are narrow, oblong and have smooth margins. The upper surface is dull green and hairless while the lower surface is covered with silky hairs.

Flowers: 1-4 pea-like flowers develop from leaf axils on short stalks. Petals are white or cream with a patch of purple at base. It blooms in early fall for about one month.

Fruits & seeds: Each flower produces a short hairy seedpod containing one seed. Seeds are viable for up to 20 years.

Roots: Stout taproot.


Known county distribution of sericea lespedeza
Counties in WI where sericea lespedeza has been reported (as of July 2011). Both vouchered and unvouchered reports included.

Currently, there have not been many reports of sericea lespedeza in WI. Have you seen it? Send us a report.


Mechanical: Mow plants in flower bud stage for several consecutive years to reduce root reserves and limit seed production.

Chemical: Foliar spray with triclopyr or clopyralid with non-ionic surfactant in mid summer.

For more information on control techniques, visit the Sericea lespedeza factsheet [exit DNR] by University of Wisconsin-Extension.


View sericea lespedeza pictures in our photo gallery!


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Last revised: Monday June 03 2019