prairie bush clover

(Lespedeza leptostachya)

               
Conservation Status

IUCN Red List

not yet assessed

prairie bush clover

NatureServe

N3 - Vulnerable

S2 - Imperiled

Federal

Threatened

Minnesota

Threatened
Nativity

Native

Occurrence

Rare

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.

Flowering

Mid-July to early August

Flower Color

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

     
Height

9 to 40, flowering stems no more than 18

     
 
Identification

This 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.

 
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.

 
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.

 
Comments

Rarity
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

Family:

Fabaceae (pea)

 

Subfamily:

Faboideae (Papilionoideae)

 

Tribe:

Desmodieae

 

Subtribe:

Lespedezinae

 
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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Inflorescence

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Leaves

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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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