lespedeza - Lespedeza cuneata
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Chinese lespedeza is a warm season, perennial herb. It has an erect growth
form, ranging from about 3 to 5½ feet in height, and leaves that
alternate along the stem. Each leaf is divided into three smaller leaflets,
about ½ to 1 inch long, which are narrowly oblong and pointed,
with awl-shaped spines. Leaflets are covered with densely flattened hairs,
giving a grayish-green or silvery appearance. Mature stems are somewhat
woody and fibrous with sharp, stiff, flattened bristles. Violet to purple
flowers emerge either singly or in clusters of 2-4, from the axils of
the upper and median leaves.
Chinese lespedeza begins growth from root crown buds at the base of last
year’s stem. The flowers begin to develop in late July and continue
through October. Within the Lespedeza genus there are no specialized structures
for seed dispersal. Dispersal is aided by animals consuming the fruits
and passing the seeds. A study on natural populations found that several
species of Lespedeza comprise 1.5% to 86.8% of the annual diet of bobwhite
quail in the southeastern U.S. Autumn dispersal is aided by the haying
of infested fields.
Scarification is necessary for the germination of lespedeza seeds. Mature
seeds of this genus remain viable for up to twenty years; one study found
a germination rate of 60% after cold storage for 55 years. Seedlings may
represent only 1% of the seeds actually available in the soil.