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

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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

QUESTION:

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.

ANSWER:

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.


"DESMODIUM  TICK-CLOVER, BEGGAR'S LICE, BEGGAR'S-TICKS

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.

"LESPEDEZA  BUSH-CLOVER

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

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