Lespedeza capitata

round-head bushclover, roundhead lespedeza, round-headed lespedeza, round-headed bush-clover, bushclover, bush clover


Leaf Arrangement


Leaf Attachment


Leaf Margin


Leaf Type

compound, trifoliolate

Growth Form


Flower Color


Flower Month

June - October

Height (meters)

0.5 - 2.0

Milky Sap








Growing Season

Warm season

Wetland Class


Prairie Coefficient of Conservatism


Field Characters

Similar to Lespedeza virginica which is also typically unbranched but which has linear leaflets and pink to lavender flowers, while L. capitata has leaflets that are less than half as wide as long and yellow flowers. Members of the genus Lespideza are sometimes confused with those of Desmodium, but can be distinguished by their seed pods which are short, oval, usually one-seeded, and are intact at maturity while the pods of Desmodium are elongated, and break into one-seeded segments at maturity.

Cultural Information

Prefers dry, sandy to loamy well-drained soils with a pH range of 6.5-8. Propagation is best by seed which require cold/moist stratification at 33-40 degrees F (1-5 C) for 10 days and scarification (Shirley 1994, Steffen 1997). They benefit from inoculation with EL rhizobium before being planted. The dried heads may be gathered from September to November, placed in paper bags then crushed and shaken. The chaff may be removed with a sieve. The seed is 1/16" in diameter and golden brown. There are 160,000-300,000 seeds/lb and the planting rate is 11 lbs/acre. The seedlings are susceptible to damping-off fungus.

Animal Use

Desirable to cattle as forage. Is nutritious and protein-rich. Larval host plant for eastern tailed blue and hoary edge butterflies. The following information is for the genus Lespedeza with note that L. striatat and L. stipulacea are especially important: Upland Gamebirds (seeds) 0.5-2% Mourning dove 25-50% Bobwhite quail 2-5% Wild turkey Hoofed Browsers (plants) 10-25% White-tailed deer (Martin et al. 1951)

Natural History

A warm-season, deep rooted, perennial legume that grows on prairies and in open woods throughout the United States. In coastal prairie it is found in dry, sandy to loamy, soils with a pH range of 6.5-8. It is one of several excellent native perennial legumes that is very high in protein and is relished by all classes of livestock. It is a decreaser under heavy grazing but its numbers also eventually decrease in undisturbed soil (Philips Petroleum Company 1956). The leaves of this Lespedeza were used to make tea by the Comanche (Carlson and Jones 1939). The Omaha and Ponca people called it "te-hunton-hi-nuga" which means "female buffalo bellow plant." It was called this because its bloom coincides with buffalo rut (Gilmore 1977, Kindscher 1987). The sprouts can be grown and eaten as a substitute for bean sprouts. It is reported to be very susceptible to herbicide drift.


Upland prairies, sand dunes, and open wooded hillsides, fields, thickets, open dry woods, sand dunes, prairies, and roadsides.

Plant Uses

Highly palatable forage for cattle.