The following Participating Institutions are custodians for this species in the CPC National Collection:
The Holden Arboretum
Chicago Botanical Garden
The conservation of Lespedeza leptostachya is fully sponsored.
Andrea Tietmeyer contributed to this Plant Profile.
Prairie bush clover is an herbaceous perennial that is a member of the legume family. It is endemic to Midwestern tallgrass prairies, and is known from 36 sites in 4 states. This species is currently listed as federally threatened.
This particular clover produces a single stem that can grow up to one meter tall, with typical pea-like leaves widely spaced along the stem, with three leaflets each. The stem and leaves appear somewhat silvery, as they are densely covered with fine hairs. When plants reach maturity, typically after 6-9 years, they produce pale pink flowers on open, branching stems beginning July and extending into September. Flowers can remain closed (cleistogamous) or open to admit pollinators (chasmogamous). Both types of flowers are capable of producing seeds without the aid of insect pollen transfer.
This species can often be found with its relative, the round-headed bush clover (Lespedeza capitata). This clover is much more common, and can be distinguished from prairie bush clover because it appears to be generally larger and more robust than its rare relative. Its flowering head is composed many very tightly bunched flowers and larger, wider leaves. There has been some documentation of hybridization between these two species, but it is considered to be rare (Cole and Biesboer 1992).
Distribution & Occurrence
Lespedeza leptostachya is often found on the north-facing slopes of dry upland prairies. On these north-facing slopes, it occurs either in thin soil at the margins of rocks or in gravelly loamy soil. (Bowles and Bell 1999, Cole & Biesboer 1992).
*Common associate species include:
little bluestem (Schizachyrium scoparium), side-oats gamma (Bouteloua curtipendula), prairie dropseed (Sporobolus heterolepsis), porcupine grass (Stipa spartea), penn sedge (Carex pennsylvanica), copper-shouldered sedge (Carex bicknellii), sand bracted sedge (Carex muhlenbergii), lead plant (Amorpha canescens), rough blazing star (Liatris aspera), purple prairie clover (Dalea purpureum), showy goldenrod (Solidago speciosa), grass leaved goldenrod (S. graminifolia), prairie gentian (Gentiana puberulenta), hoary puccoon (Lithospermum canescens), blue eyed grass (Sisyrinchium albidum), cream wild indigo (Baptisia leucophaea), flax-leaved aster (Aster linariifolius, silky aster (A. sericeus), pale prairie coneflower (Echinacea pallida), milkwort (Polygola polygama), and bird's foot violet (Viola pedata) (Bittner and Kleiman 1998).
|Presently known from 36 sites in 24 counties in 4 states-- northern IL, southern and western WI, and southern MN and IA. (Smith et al. 1988) The thirteen populations in IL contain only 249 plants.|
Conservation, Ecology & Research
Agricultural activities, residential development, quarry mining, and vegetation management of right-of-ways are also threats.
An apparent lack of
Currently at Chicago Botanic Garden, genetic analysis using ISSRs (intersimple sequence repeats) is being performed to determine the genetic diversity of the population at Nachusa.
Chicago Botanic Garden has seeds of this plant in storage.
A joint research effort between the Illinois Department of Natural Resources, Chicago Botanic Garden and The Nature Conservancy of Illinois is attempting to quantify the effects of light periodic grazing on the long-term survival and reproductive recruitment of this species. It is thought that, because this species evolved in the presence of grazing by bison, slight grazing may be necessary to maintain healthy, viable populations.
Prescribed fire without periodic grazing is believed to increase plant competition, an outcome that can be detrimental to Lespedeza leptostachya.
Understanding the population dynamics that affect seed production and seedling recruitment would be useful for managing populations.
Determine whether or not hybrids are forming between Lespedeza capitata and L. leptostachya.
Protocols for seed germination and growth need to be established.
Spackman, S.; Jennings, B.; Coles, J.; Dawson, C.; Minton, M.; Kratz, A.; Spurrier, C.; Skadelandl, T. 1997. Colorado Rare Plant Field Guide. Fort Collins, CO: Prepared for the Bureau of Land Management, the U.S. Forest Service, and the U.S. Fish & Wi