Wanted: The Unwanted
Sericea lespedeza (Lespedeza cuneata), or Chinese bush clover, is an introduced perennial legume native to eastern Asia. As early as 1930 to 1950, Chinese bush clover was planted in Missouri and Kansas. It was recognized for its tolerance of drought, acidity and shallow soils of low fertility. Its ability to thrive under a variety of conditions and its tendency to crowd out more palatable plants are among the reasons it has become noxious in some states. Chinese bush clover was planted in the past to control erosion, provide forage for livestock and provide cover and food for wildlife. The plant has spread to every county in Missouri and almost every eastern county of Kansas. Even though it is grown in the southern states as a forage and hay crop, here in Missouri we are combating it at the landowner level. This aggressive legume has a low nitrogen-fixation rate and has little effect on the status of soil nitrogen. It has been shown to increase the nitrogen content of associated grass, but it emits chemicals that affect other organisms’ growth, reproduction and survival, which offsets the nitrogen it produces. June is the best time to start attacking this unwanted legume. Herbicides containing tryclopyr have shown the best results in field trials as well as landowner testimonies. Two common brands are Pasturegard and Remedy. Other herbicides are available. Please read and follow label instruction and cautions. For more information on controlling this invasive legume, contact your local private land conservationist or go to your nearest Missouri Department of Conservation office.