James H. Miller, USDA FS

Chinese Lespedeza

Lespedeza cuneata (Dum.-Cours.) G. Don.
Pea family (Fabaceae)

Origin: Eastern Asia

Chinese or Sericea lespedeza was introduced in the late 1800s by federal and state agencies for use in bank stabilization, erosion control, soil improvement, mine reclamation, forage, hay and other purposes. It has been escaping from plantings for many years and is a well established invasive plant.

Distribution and Habitat
Chinese lespedeza occurs throughout much of the eastern U.S. from Minnesota to Texas east to New York and Florida. It is found in a variety of habitats including fields, prairies, floodplains, pond borders, stream banks, swamps, meadows, open woodlands, roadsides and other disturbed grounds, prefers full sun and is not tolerant of much shade.

Ecological Threat
Chinese lespedeza poses the greatest threat to open areas such as meadows, prairies, open woodlands, wetland borders and fields. Once established, it out-competes and displaces native plants, forms extensive monocultures and develops an extensive seed bank in the soil, ensuring its long residence at a site. Its high tannin content makes it unpalatable to livestock and most native wildlife.

Bill Johnson

Description and Biology

Prevention and Control
Do not plant Chinese lespedeza. Hand pulling is impractical due to lespedeza’s extensive perennial root system. Mowing plants in the flowering stage for two or three consecutive years may help control it. Plants should be cut as low as possible. Systemic herbicides can be effective when applied in early to mid summer (see Control Options).

Native Alternatives
Blue indigo (Baptisia australis) or yellow wild indigo (Baptisia tinctoria), partridge pea (Cassia fasciculata), Virginia wild rye (Elymus virginicus), little bluestem (Schizachyrium scoparium), wild senna (Senna hebecarpa or marilandica).


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Last updated:11-Nov-2010