Contact Us Host an Event Volunteer Join

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?

Share

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

Please forgive us, but Mr. Smarty Plants has been overwhelmed by a flood of mail and must take a break for awhile to catch up. We hope to be accepting new questions again soon. Thank you!

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

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

More Plant Identification Questions

Identification of a plant that looks like a watermelon.
May 21, 2012 - A wild plant came up in my bed that looked like a watermelon plant. It had small yellow blooms and then marble balls formed with prickly thorns. The balls were in clusters. What kind of plant is i...
view the full question and answer

Identity of plant with white flowers and serrated leaves in creek bed
September 17, 2012 - I have a wild fall blooming plant, white flowers, serrated leaves. Growing abundantly in my dry creek bed. Any thoughts?
view the full question and answer

Plant ID from Villa Hills KY
April 21, 2013 - Hello I have this plant but I don't know what it is. I want to know if it's edible or what it is. I think it's catnip.
view the full question and answer

Where do snake herb and skeleton-leaf goldeneye get their names?
October 05, 2014 - Dear Mr. Smarty Plants, Where does snake herb, and skeleton leaf goldeneye get their names from? Thank you.
view the full question and answer

Plant ID from Bracketville TX
June 23, 2010 - A volunteer plant, 3 feet. 4 to 5 Dark green leaves from a central point, diamond shaped very serrated leaves with dark spots within the the leave. Stem is reddish. flowers are pinkish, small and clus...
view the full question and answer

Support the Wildflower Center by Donating Online or Becoming a Member today.