prairie bush clover

(Lespedeza leptostachya)

Conservation Status
prairie bush clover
  IUCN Red List

not listed

     
  NatureServe

N3 - Vulnerable

S2 - Imperiled

     
  Federal

Threatened

     
  Minnesota

Threatened

     
           
           
           
           
           
 
Description
 
 

Prairie bush clover is a 9 to 40 tall, erect, long-lived perennial forb that rises on usually one but occasionally 4 or 5 stems from a taproot. It produces flowers after 6 years.

The stems are erect, leafy, and usually unbranched or with a few branches above the middle.Flowering stems are no more than 18 tall. They are densely covered with soft, silvery hairs.

The leaves are alternate, and compound, divided into 3 leaflets. They are on short, to long leaf stalks. The stalk of the terminal leaflet is longer than the leaf stalk. The leaflets are ascending, oval, ¾ to 1¾ long, to wide, and may be tipped with a short, sharp, abrupt point. They are bright yellow-green in early summer, changing to grayish green in late summer. The hairiness of the upper surface is variable. They are usually covered in dense, soft, appressed, hairs, and often have a silvery sheen, but they may be hairless. The lower surface is always covered in dense, soft, appressed hairs. The margins are untoothed.

The inflorescence is an open spike of several loose clusters with a few flowers each. The spikes are on a short stalk at the ends of stems and branches, or are unstalked in the leaf axils. The flower heads turn dark brown when they mature.

The flowers are about ¼ long and pea-like, with 5 petals organized into a broad banner at the top, 2 narrow wings, and a keel in the center formed by two petals fused together at the tip. The petals are pale pink or cream colored (yellowish-white) with a pinkish or purple patch near the throat. There is no floral scent.

The fruit is a 1-seeded, hairy pod, about 1 5 long.

 
     
 

Height

 
 

9 to 40, flowering stems no more than 18

 
     
 

Flower Color

 
 

Pale pink or cream colored (yellowish-white), with a pinkish or purple throat.

 
     
 

Similar Species

 
  Round-headed bush clover (Lespedeza capitata) is a much larger and more robust plant. It has larger, wider leaves and tightly bunched, head-like flower clusters with many flowers.  
     
 
Habitat
 
 

Dry to moderate moisture. Prairies on north- or northwest-facing gentle slopes of 10° to 15° degrees in a dry, open site. Full to partial sun.

 
     
 
Biology
 
 

Flowering

 
 

Mid-July to early August

 
     
 
Use
 
 

 

 
     
 
Distribution
 
 

Range Map – prairie bush clover

 

Sources

2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 23, 28.

Two of the world’s largest known populations of prairie bush clover are at Prairie Bush Clover SNA and Des Moines River SNA. Other places this plant can be found, along with those listed below, are Cottonwood River Prairie SNA, Holthe Prairie SNA, Red Rock Prairie, and Rock Ridge Prairie SNA.

 
         
         
 

Nativity

 
 

Native

 
         
 

Occurrence

 
 

Rare

Prairie bush clover is endemic to tallgrass prairie. It is found in only four states: Iowa, Illinois, Minnesota, and Wisconsin. Within those states it is found at only 36 sites in 24 counties, 16 of which are protected by federal, state, or private preserves. Most large populations will be found in and around the Des Moines River Valley in southwest Minnesota and in the Iowa Lakes region of northwest Iowa.

 
         
 
Taxonomy
 
  Kingdom Plantae (green algae and land plants)  
  Subkingdom Viridiplantae (green plants)  
  Infrakingdom Streptophyta (land plants and green algae)  
  Superdivision Embryophyta (land plants)  
  Division Tracheophyta (vascular plants)  
  Subdivision Spermatophytina (seed plants)  
  Class Magnoliopsida (dicots)  
  Subclass Rosidae  
  Superorder Rosanae  
 

Order

Fabales (legumes, milkworts, and allies)  
 

Family

Fabaceae (peas, legumes)  
  Subfamily Faboideae (Papilionoideae)  
  Tribe Desmodieae  
  Subtribe Lespedezinae  
  Genus Lespedeza (bush clovers and lespedezas)  
       
 

Synonyms

 
     
       
 

Common Names

 
 

prairie bush clover

prairie lespedeza

slender-leaved bush clover

 
       

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Glossary

Axil

The upper angle where the leaf stalk meets the stem.

 

Compound leaf

A leaf that is divided into leaflets, each leaflet having the general appearance of a leaf, with all leaflets attached to a single leaf stem.

       
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Plant

  prairie bush clover   prairie bush clover
       
  prairie bush clover   prairie bush clover
       

Inflorescence

  prairie bush clover   prairie bush clover
       

Leaves

  prairie bush clover    
       
       

 

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  Prairie Bush Clover
Adam Arvidson
 
   
 
About

Published on Apr 5, 2012

Prairie Bush Clover (Lespedeza leptostachya) at Cottonwood River Scientific and Natural Area in Minnesota, August, 2010.

   
       

 

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