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7/13/17- Chinese Lespedeza

By Meaghan English, TrueSouth Properties Wildlife Specialist

Today’s invasive is slightly different from other species that have been discussed. Chinese Lespedeza, unlike its name implies is an invasive from Japan that can actually benefit your land and soil. From Arkansas to Georgia, this invasive forb has been flourishing since the 1800s.

Lespedeza cuneata is a warm-season perennial that stands upright and reaches 3 to 6 feet in height. The plant itself is made of upright leafy stems that contain hundreds of leaflets. In late summer months, tiny off-white or yellow flowers appear in between the leaflets. During the winter time, the plant becomes dormant and turns brown, but remains standing upright. The stems of Lespedeza are often hairy, as well as the leaflets. The leaflets contain so much hair, that they appear to have a silver tint to them. The plant begins to produce seeds in October and stops producing around March. The seeds spread by animal dispersal, especially Bobwhite quail. This plant was originally established by the government as a control for erosion on embankments and other easily washed areas because of its flood tolerance. However, the forb eventually began to take over open areas and roadsides (an invasive’s favorite spot) and displaced native vegetation. Today, this species is still on the invasive list, but it actually is desired in food plots for Bobwhite quail. While the high tannin levels make it undesirable for other wildlife species, quail seem to love it and most food plot gurus don’t mind planting it because it is a nitrogen fixer. But if coveys of quail don’t crank your tractor, get rid of this invasive species now. It will take over any open space and restrict new forest growth. If you have Chinese Lespedeza on your property, begin to mow it during the flowering months (summer) and keep it as short as possible. A healthy dose of glyphosate should also help control efforts.

Chinese Lespedeza is one of the few invasive species that some landowners and hunters will actually tolerate due to their “quail attractiveness” and legume characteristics (nitrogen fixing).  If you are not one of these people, begin exploring your land today and taking measures to remove this highly invasive species before it is too late.

By: Red Clay

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