En EspaŅol

Q. Who is Mr. Smarty Plants?

A: There are those who suspect Wildflower Center volunteers are the culpable and capable culprits. Yet, others think staff members play some, albeit small, role. You can torture us with your plant questions, but we will never reveal the Green Guru's secret identity.

Help us grow by giving to the Plant Database Fund or by becoming a member

Did you know you can access the Native Plant Information Network with your web-enabled smartphone?


Ask Mr. Smarty Plants

Ask Mr. Smarty Plants is a free service provided by the staff and volunteers at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center.

Search Smarty Plants
See a list of all Smarty Plants questions
Can't find the answer in our existing FAQs, submit a question to Mr. Smarty Plants.
Need help with plant identification, visit the plant identification page.
rate this answer
Not Yet Rated

Thursday - June 19, 2014

From: Millersville , PA
Region: Mid-Atlantic
Topic: Invasive Plants, Non-Natives, Plant Identification
Title: Differences between Desmodium and Lespedezda
Answered by: Nan Hampton


i am trying to determine the difference between lespedeza and desmodium in my full sun wildflower and tall grasses meadow. There appear to be a number of different types of these plants, and they are becoming more numerous than I wish. I also have quite a bit of crown vetch which I am controlling with Stinger, which also knocks out the other composite flowers, but without it the crown vetch would destroy everything. Any help on determining the differences mentioned at the beginning, and the need/means for control.


The major difference appears to be the type of fruit produced.   The fruits of Desmodium spp. are flat with 2-6 one-seeded segments.  The fruits of Lespedeza spp. are flattened, 1-seeded and ovate or round.

From Shinners & Mahler Illustrated Flora of North Central Texas pp. 652 and 654, line drawings on pp. 657 and 659.


Ours perennial herbs; leaves pinnately compound; leaflets 3 (except D. psilophyllum with 1 leaflet); stipules broad or narrow; persistent or falling early; flowers small, usually many, in erect, narrow racemes or panicles; petals pink, lavender, red-purple, purple, or whitish, often drying bluish or a striking blue-green; fruits (loments) flat, constricted into ca. 2-6 one-seeded segments, usually with small hooked hairs.  In nc TX the genus is easily identified in the field because it is the only native group with flat fruits breaking into segments."

From Shinners & Mahler Illustrated Flora of North Central Texas pp. 666 amd 668, line drawings on pp. 669 & 673.


Perennial herbs; leaves rather small, numerous, and crowded, short-petioled, pinnately compound with 3 leaflets, leaflets entire; stipules inconspicuous, slender, linear to nearly threadlike; flowers usually small, axillary or terminal, in pairs or in head-like or loose racemes or panicles; petals white to cream to purplish or pinkish (on open flowers; cleistogamous flower also produced by some species); stamens 10,  diadelphous; fruits flattened, 1-seeded, indehiscent, usually ovate or rounded; style elongate on chasmogamous fruits (though easily broken off), recurved tightly on cleistogamous fruits."

From Invasive Plants in Pennsylvania, Coronilla varia [synonym = Securigera varia] (Crown Vetch) was introduced from the Mediterranean area and is now considered invasive in many areas. The description of Coronilla varia appears on pp. 642 and 643 in Shinners & Mahler Illustrated Flora of North Central Texas with a line drawing on p. 645.

You can read about control methods for Crown Vetch on the Texas Invasives Database that recommends  integrated management using both manual and mechanical means along with chemical means.  These methods would also apply to the Desmodium spp. and the Lespedeza ssp. if you decide to control them, too.  One important step is to be sure that you get the plants before they go to seed and discard them in a seald plastic bag in the garbage.



From the Image Gallery

Panicledleaf ticktrefoil
Desmodium paniculatum

Tall bush-clover
Lespedeza stuevei

More Invasive Plants Questions

Adding Wildflowers to Corpus Christi
May 20, 2012 - I have a dry sandy yard, full sun in Corpus Christi with lot's of stickers mostly, want to transform to wildflowers. When should I plant, how should I prepare soil, should I dig out stickers? Which w...
view the full question and answer

Plants for under non-native fruitless mullberry trees from Ft. Worth TX
June 28, 2012 - I live in Tarrant county, where summer droughts are the norm. I have a 150x50 foot swathe of mature "fruitless mulberry" trees, which create a very shady atmosphere. The soil is clay dominated, ro...
view the full question and answer

Care for a Campsis radicans in Yakima, WA
October 08, 2008 - I have a Campsis radicans it is in a 7" pot and the plant is 20" tall. It was a clipping given to me by a lady that is now out of town. My question is: I live in zone 6a so do I leave it in the p...
view the full question and answer

Identification of plant resembling garlic mustard, but with purple flowers
May 18, 2012 - While searching for the invasive garlic mustard I am finding a very similar looking plant (triangular, alternate, toothed leaves; four petals, same habitat of shaded roadside and interior woods) excep...
view the full question and answer

Eliminating ragweed in Sacramento CA
May 16, 2012 - Rag weed. How to be rid of it! My wife and lots of others that live in this part of Sacramento suffer greatly.
view the full question and answer

Support the Wildflower Center by Donating Online or Becoming a Member today.
© 2015 Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center