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Chinese bushclover

Chinese bushclover is an invasive plant that has spread to Chicago, Illinois and states south and east of Illinois. Like other invasive plants, it harms the ecosystem in a variety of ways.

Protecting the environment
Photo by Joe Raedle

A member of the legume family, FABACEAE or LEGUMINACEAE, Chinese bushclover belongs to the genus Lespedeza and the species L. cuneata. It grows to over 6.5 feet from a woody taproot that extends more than a foot into the soil. Above the ground level, there is a woody base that survives winter and produces new growth. Its flowers are produced singly or in groups of three. These flowers can be colored purple, cream, white or yellow. Like other legumes, it produces a pod but with only one seed.

Chinese bushclover, also known as Chinese lespedeza, is a perennial herb native to Asia and Eastern Australia. It was first planted in the U.S. in North Carolina. At the time, it was believed to be a beneficial plant that would control drought stricken areas. When mining sites in North Carolina stripped vegetation from the land, it was used to reclaim those areas. It was also used as forage for grazing livestock.

This plant is considered invasive because it reduces the variety and profusion of native plants. Wildlife is not attracted to this plant or the areas it invades. It inhibits the growth of seedlings which can’t compete with its deep, tough root system. It produces elements that chemically inhabit the growth of other plants.

Chicago gardeners, if you see this weed in your garden, remove it while it’s young. Its deep root system will cause problems if you delay. You may have to keep a close watch on the area where you find it. Wild indigo is a stunningly beautiful alternative to this invasive plant.

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