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Lespedeza cuneata — Chinese bush-clover

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New England distribution

Adapted from BONAP data

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North America distribution

Adapted from BONAP data



Chinese bush-clover is native to eastern Asia, and introduced in North America, where it can become very invasive, forming dense stands that crowd out native vegetation. This spread has been rapid, largely originating from deliberate plantings in the 1940s to the 1990s, resulting in 8.6 million acres (3.5 million ha) of the United States being infested by 2003. New England is at the northeast limit of Chinese bush-clover's current range, and it so far appears only in Connecticut and Massachusetts.


Anthropogenic (man-made or disturbed habitats), meadows and fields


Flower petal color
  • blue to purple
  • white
  • yellow
Leaf type
the leaves are compound (made up of two or more discrete leaflets
Leaf arrangement
alternate: there is one leaf per node along the stem
Leaf blade edges
the edge of the leaf blade is entire (has no teeth or lobes)
Flower symmetry
there is only one way to evenly divide the flower (the flower is bilaterally symmetrical)
Number of sepals, petals or tepals
  • there are five petals, sepals, or tepals in the flower
  • there are four petals, sepals, or tepals in the flower
Stamen number
Fruit type (general)
the fruit is dry but does not split open when ripe
Fruit length
3–5 mm
Show all characteristics
  • Clonal plantlets

    the plant does not appear to have bulbils
    Bulblets replace flowers
    there are no bulblets where the flowers are located
  • Flowers

    Anther opening
    the anthers have narrow slits or furrows that run lengthwise along the anthers
    Anther spurs
    the anthers do not have spurs on them
    Calyx symmetry
    there is only one way to evenly divide the calyx (the calyx is bilaterally symmetrical)
    Carpels fused
    • NA
    • the carpel is solitary or (if 2 or more) the carpels are not fused to one another
    Cleistogamous flowers
    • the plant has some cleistogamous flower
    • there are no cleistogamous flowers on the plan
    Corolla morphology
    Corolla palate
    Corona lobe length
    0 mm
    the flower does not have an epicalyx
    Epicalyx number of parts
    Filament surface
    the filament is smooth, with no hairs or scales
    Flower description
    the flower has a superior ovary and a hypanthium
    Flower length
    7–9 mm
    Flower number
    Flower petal color
    • blue to purple
    • white
    • yellow
    Flower reproductive parts
    the flower has both pollen- and seed-producing parts
    Flower symmetry
    there is only one way to evenly divide the flower (the flower is bilaterally symmetrical)
    Flowers sunken into stem
    Form of style
    the style is knob-like at the tip, and unbranched
    Fused stamen clusters
    there are two clusters of fused stamens
    Horns in hoods (Asclepias)
    the flower has a hypanthium
    Inflorescence one-sided
    the flowers are arrayed in a spiral around the inflorescence axis or branches, or occur singly, or in several ranks
    Inner tepals (Rumex)
    Length of flower stalk
    Up to 1 mm
    Marks on petals
    the petals have spots or streaks on them
    Nectar spur
    the flower has no nectar spurs
    Number of carpels
    Number of pistils
    Number of sepals, petals or tepals
    • there are five petals, sepals, or tepals in the flower
    • there are four petals, sepals, or tepals in the flower
    Number of styles
    Ovary position
    the ovary is above the point of petal and/or sepal attachment
    Petal and sepal arrangement
    the flower includes two cycles of petal- or sepal-like structures
    Petal and sepal colors
    • blue to purple
    • white
    • yellow
    Petal appearance
    the petals are thin and delicate, and pigmented (colored other than green or brown)
    Petal base
    the petal narrows abruptly at the base
    Petal folding in bud
    the petals in bud are arranged in a cycle with edges overlapping like roof shingles (imbricate)
    Petal folds or pleats
    • the petals of the flower do not have folds or plaits
    • the petals of the flower have folds or plaits on them
    Petal hairs (Viola)
    Petal length
    6.5–9 mm
    Petal length relative to sepals
    the petals are longer than the sepals
    Petal number
    Petal tips (Cuscuta)
    Raceme attachment (Veronica)
    Reproductive system
    all the flowers have both carpels and stamens (synoecious)
    Scales inside corolla
    Sepal and petal color
    the sepals are different from the petals
    Sepal appearance
    the sepals are green or brown, and leaf-like in texture
    Sepal appendages
    the sepals do not have appendages on them
    Sepal appendages (Oenothera)
    Sepal color
    green to brown
    Sepal length
    2–4 mm
    Sepal number
    Sepal orientation
    the sepals are slightly curved outwards from the corolla
    Sepal relative length
    the sepal lobes are longer than the fused portion
    Sepal shape
    the sepal outline is lanceolate (lance-shaped; narrow, gradually tapering from the base to the tip)
    Sepal tip shape
    the sepal tip is acuminate (tapers to a very narrow point)
    Sepal uniformity
    all the sepals are about the same size
    Sepals fused only to sepals
    the sepals are fused to each other (not other flower parts), at least near their bases
    Stamen lengths differ
    the stamens are all approximately the same length
    Stamen morphology
    the stamens within each cycle are the same
    Stamen number
    Stamens fused
    the stamens are attached to one another at or near their bases
    there are no staminodes on the flower
    Stigma position
    the stigmas are positioned at the tip of the style
    Style petal-like
    the styles are not petal-like
    Umbel flower reproductive parts
    Upper lip of bilabiate corolla
  • Fruits or seeds

    Achene relative orientation
    Achene shape
    Achene surface (Polygonum)
    Achene type
    Berry color
    Capsule color (Viola)
    Capsule ribs
    Capsule splitting
    • NA
    • the capsule splits by two main valves, teeth or pores
    Fruit (pyxis) dehiscence
    Fruit features (Brassicaceae)
    Fruit length
    3–5 mm
    Fruit length relative to sepals
    • the fruit is about the same length as its associated sepals
    • the fruit is longer than its associated sepals
    Fruit locules
    Fruit shape
    the fruit is ovoid (egg-shaped)
    Fruit type (general)
    the fruit is dry but does not split open when ripe
    Fruit type (specific)
    the fruit is a legume (a fruit that splits into two valves, but only has a single carpel; think of a pea pod)
    Hair type on fruit
    the hairs on the fruits are simple (not branched), don’t have glands, and are not woolly
    Hairs on fruit
    the fruits have hairs on them
    Legumes (Fabaceae)
    the legume has none of the mentioned special features
    Mericarp length
    0 mm
    Mericarp segment shape (Desmodium)
    Other markings on berry
    Placenta arrangement
    the plant has parietal placentation, where ovules develop on the wall or slight outgrowths of the wall forming broken partitions within a compound ovary
    Rows of seeds in fruit (Brassicaceae)
    Schizocarpic fruit compression
    Schizocarpic fruit segments
    Seed number
    Septum in fruit (Brassicaceae)
    Wings on fruit
    the fruit does not have wings on it
    prickles on fruits
    the fruits do not have thorn-like defensive structures
  • Glands or sap

    Glands on leaf blade
    the leaf blades do not have glandular dots or scales
    the sap is clear and watery
    Sap color
    the sap is clear
  • Growth form

    Growth form
    • the plant is a subshrub (small shrub with partially herbaceous stems)
    • the plant is an herb (it has self-supporting stems)
    the plant lives more than two years
    the plant is not parasitic
    Plant color
    the leaves or young stems of the plant are green
    Plants darken when dry
    Spines on plant
    the plant has no spines
  • Leaves

    Bracteole length
    Up to 1.5 mm
    Bracteole number (Apiaceae)
    the plant has bracteoles between the primary bracts and the flowers
    Bracts in plantain (Plantago)
    Final leaf segment length (compound lvs only)
    10–25 mm
    Final leaf segment length to width ratio (compound lvs only)
    Floral bracts
    the flower has one or more bracts associated with it
    Hairs on underside of leaf
    the underside of the leaf is fuzzy or hairy
    Hairs on upper side of leaf
    • the upper side of the leaf is fuzzy or hairy
    • the upper side of the leaf is not hairy, or it has very few hairs
    Leaf arrangement
    alternate: there is one leaf per node along the stem
    Leaf blade base
    the leaf has a distinct leaf stalk (petiole)
    Leaf blade base shape
    the base of the leaf blade is cuneate (wedge-shaped, tapers to the base with relatively straight, converging edges), or narrow
    Leaf blade base symmetry
    the leaf blade base is symmetrical
    Leaf blade edges
    the edge of the leaf blade is entire (has no teeth or lobes)
    Leaf blade hairs
    the leaf blade has simple hairs with no glands, and not tangled or wooly
    Leaf blade primary vein pattern
    the secondary veins branch off at intervals from the primary vein
    Leaf blade shape
    • the leaf blade is linear (very narrow with more or less parallel sides)
    • the leaf blade is oblanceolate (lance-shaped, but with the widest point above the middle of the leaf blade)
    • the leaf blade is oblong (rectangular but with rounded ends)
    Leaf blade surface colors
    the upper side of the leaf blade is relatively uniform in color
    Leaf blade texture
    the leaf blade is herbaceous (has a leafy texture)
    Leaf blade vein pattern
    the major veins form a net-like pattern due to splitting and rejoining
    Leaf blade veins
    the leaf blade has one main vein running from the base towards the tip (it may or may not have secondary veins)
    Leaf duration
    the leaves drop off in winter (or they whither but persist on the plant)
    Leaf form
    the leaves are green, with an expanded blade and a leaf-like texture
    Leaf hair orientation
    the hairs are flat against the leaf surface, mostly pointing towards the leaf tip
    Leaf shiny
    the upper side of the leaf is dull or slightly shiny
    Leaf spines
    there are no spines on the leaf edges
    Leaf stalk
    the leaves have leaf stalks
    Leaf stalk attachment to leaf
    the petiole attaches at the basal margin of the leaf blade
    Leaf stalk length
    2–5 mm
    Leaf teeth and lobes
    the edge of the leaf blade is entire (has no teeth or lobes)
    Leaf tip
    the tip of the leaf blade is truncate (ends abruptly in a more or less straight line as though cut off)
    Leaf type
    the leaves are compound (made up of two or more discrete leaflets
    Leaf types
    There is a gradual change in appearance of the leaves from the base (or near the base) of the plant to those from further up on the stem, with leaves progressively changing as one moves higher on the stem (often becoming shorter, or less toothed/lobed, and/or with shorter petioles).
    Leaf variation
    the leaves are nearly similar in size, prominence of teeth, and length of stalks throughout the stem
    Leaflet number
    Leaflet petiolules
    the leaflets of the compound leaf have petiolules
    Leaves per node
    there is one leaf per node along the stem
    Pinnately compound leaf type
    the pinnately compound leaves have a terminal leaflet (and usually have an odd number of leaflets per axis)
    Specific leaf type
    the leaf has a row of two or more lobes on each side of the central axis
    there are no stipels at the bases of the petiolules
    Stipule features
    Stipule length
    1.5–12 mm
    Stipule shape
    the stipules are another shape than the choices given
    the plant has stipules
    Teeth per side of leaf blade
  • Place

    Specific habitat
    • man-made or disturbed habitats
    • meadows or fields
  • Scent

    Plant odor
    the plant does not have much of a smell
  • Stem, shoot, branch

    Branched tendrils
    Direction of stem hairs
    the hairs are pressed flat against the plant, pointing towards the plant's tip
    Flowering stem cross-section
    the flowering stem is circular, or with lots of small angles so that it is roughly circular
    Hair between stem nodes
    the stem has hairs between the nodes
    Hairs between stem nodes
    the hairs on the stem are plain, without glands or branches, and not tangled
    Leaves on stem
    there is at least one full leaf above the base of the flowering stem
    Plant height
    80–200 cm
    Stem hair distribution
    the hairs on the stem are distributed more of less uniformly
    Stem nodes swollen
    the stem is not swollen at the nodes
    Stem orientation
    the stems are upright or angled outwards
    Stem spacing
    the plant is solitary, or a few plants are growing together
    Stem succulence
    the stems are not succulent
    Tendril origin
    the plant does not have tendrils
    Wings on stem
    the stem does not have wings on it

Wetland status

Occurs only in non-wetlands. (Wetland indicator code: UPL)

New England distribution and conservation status


New Hampshire
Rhode Island

Conservation status

Exact status definitions can vary from state to state. For details, please check with your state.

not applicable (S-rank: SNA)

Native to North America?


Sometimes confused with

Kummerowia striata:
petiolule of terminal leaflet +/- the same length as the petiolules of the lateral leaflets, stipules narrow-ovate, striate, and plants annual (vs. L. cuneata, with petiolule of terminal leaflet clearly longer than the petiolules of the lateral leaflets and stipules subulate or setaceous, not striate, and plants perennial).





From the dichotomous key of Flora Novae Angliae

4.  Lespedeza cuneata (Dum.-Cours.) G. Don E

Chinese bush-clover. CT, MA. Fields, roadsides.