Slender Bush Clover

Photo of slender bush clover flowers
Scientific Name
Lespedeza virginica
Fabaceae (beans)

A bushy perennial, usually unbranched, that curves under the weight of its own foliage. Flowers on very short stalks arising from the leaf axils, in small clusters along middle and upper stem, small, pink, pea flower-shaped. Blooms May–September. Leaves alternate, profuse, 3-divided, narrow-linear, short, with a pointed tip and forward-pressed hairs. Fruit pods.


Height: stems to 3 feet (9 dm).

Where To Find
image of Slender Bush Clover distribution map

Statewide, except extreme northwestern Missouri.

Occurs in dry, open woods, prairies, fields, streamsides, roadsides, and railroads.

The name Lespedeza was an attempt to honor a late 1700s Spanish governor of Florida, Vincente Manuel de Céspedes. Botanist André Michaux's notes were apparently mistranscribed in the publication process as "Lespedez." Taxonomic rules prohibit "correcting" names once published.

The seeds are eaten by birds, including quail and turkey. Deer, rabbits, woodchuck, and livestock graze on the foliage. A variety of long-tongued insects consume nectar, pollen, or both from the flowers. Like other legumes, this plant enriches the soil with nitrogen.

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About Wildflowers, Grasses and Other Nonwoody Plants in Missouri
A very simple way of thinking about the green world is to divide the vascular plants into two groups: woody and nonwoody (or herbaceous). But this is an artificial division; many plant families include some species that are woody and some that are not. The diversity of nonwoody vascular plants is staggering! Think of all the ferns, grasses, sedges, lilies, peas, sunflowers, nightshades, milkweeds, mustards, mints, and mallows — weeds and wildflowers — and many more!