A warm-season, perennial legume with erect, herbaceous to somewhat woody stems, with many erect, leafy branches. Blooms July-October. Flowers are 1/4 to 3/8 inch long and in clusters of mostly 2-3 in upper leaf axils. The petals are cream colored with purple or pink markings. Leaves are green to ashy green, with densely flattened hairs, compound with 3 leaflets, the leaflets varying in length from 1/4 to 1 inch. The lower leaves have leaf stalks, but the upper leaves have little or no stalks. The leaflets are much longer than wide, tapering to the base, and wider above the middle, narrowing abruptly to a small sharp point. Its myriads of seeds are borne in small oval pods that are up to 1/8 inch wide.
Similar species: The native slender lespedeza (Lespedeza virginica) does not have the distinct “fishbone-like” venation pattern that sericea lespedeza has. Also, the native has light to dark pink flowers.