Fabaceae Lindl.

Lespedeza Michx.

This genus is accepted, and its native range is Asia to Australia, N. America.


Legumes of the World. Edited by G. Lewis, B. Schrire, B. MacKinder & M. Lock. Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew. (2005)


The tribe Desmodieae as treated by Ohashi et al. (1981) comprised 27 genera and c. 540 species in three subtribes, the Bryinae, Desmodiinae and Lespedezinae. Molecular analyses by Bailey et al. (1997) and Doyle et al. (2000) show that Bryinae has affinities elsewhere; Lavin et al. (2001a) place it within the Pterocarpus clade of the Dalbergieae sens. lat. (see page 309). The Bryinae are therefore removed from the Desmodieae here, as are two genera formerly placed in subtribe Lespedezinae; Phylacium Benn. and Neocollettia Hemsl., which are moved to tribe Phaseoleae (see page 393) on morphological, palynological and molecular evidence (Doyle et al., 2000; Kajita et al., 2001). The two remaining subtribes of Desmodieae are recognised in this treatment as three groups, the Lespedeza, Phyllodium and Desmodium groups, based on results of an analysis of the chloroplast gene rbcL (Kajita et al., 2001). The Phyllodium and Desmodium groups correspond to subtribe Desmodiinae, and the Lespedeza group to subtribe Lespedezinae (with Campylotropis now comprising 37 instead of 65 species as in Ohashi et al., 1981).

Desmodieae as circumscribed here comprises 30 genera and (524)–527–(530) species (Fig. 48). The tribe occurs in the tropical, subtropical and warm temperate regions of the world, but extends into the cool temperate and sub-boreal regions of E Asia and N America (except W of the Rocky Mountains). At generic level subtribe Desmodiinae is most diverse in tropical S and SE Asia (Dy Phon et al., 1994), while temperate E Asia (Yang & Huang, 1995) and N America (Isely, 1998) are the centres of diversity of subtribe Lespedezinae. The tribe occurs widely from coastal to montane areas, but not at high altitudes. Species are most commonly shrubs or subshrubs, sometimes herbs, rarely trees and are usually erect and 3-foliolate.

The Desmodieae have been considered similar to tribe Phaseoleae (Polhill, 1981a) and were recently shown to be a monophyletic lineage included within Phaseoleae sens. lat. (Fig. 47, page 394), closely related to subtribe Kennediinae (Doyle & Doyle, 1993, Bruneau et al., 1995; Doyle et al., 1997) and possibly sister to Mucuna (Bailey et al., 1997; Doyle et al., 2000; Kajita et al., 2001).

bush clovers
Subshrubs, shrubs or herbs
Temperate to seasonally dry tropical woodland margins, bushland and grassland, in open places
mainly China and E Asia (c. 25 spp., a few extending to tropical India and Malesia); and N America (c. 12 spp., with about 30 putative natural hybrids); subgen. Macrolespedeza (c. 12 spp.) is confined in E Asia with the centre of diversity in Japan and Korea

Bush clovers are used as green manure and cover crops, highly esteemed forage crops, human food and drink (i.e., as an alternative to tea, e.g., L. bicolor Turcz.), and as bee-food; also grown as ornamentals, e.g. L. thunbergii (DC.) Nakai; L. juncea (L.f.) Pers. var. sericea (Thunb.) Lace & Hemsl. (sericea lespedeza or Chinese bush clover) is a noxious weed in USA

Doubtfully present in:


Native to:

Afghanistan, Alabama, Amur, Arkansas, Assam, Buryatiya, Cambodia, China North-Central, China South-Central, China Southeast, Chita, Connecticut, Delaware, District of Columbia, East Himalaya, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, India, Indiana, Inner Mongolia, Iowa, Irkutsk, Japan, Jawa, Kansas, Kentucky, Khabarovsk, Korea, Kuril Is., Laos, Lesser Sunda Is., Louisiana, Maine, Malaya, Manchuria, Maryland, Massachusetts, Mexico Northeast, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, Mongolia, Myanmar, Nansei-shoto, Nebraska, Nepal, New Guinea, New Jersey, New South Wales, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Oklahoma, Pakistan, Pennsylvania, Philippines, Primorye, Qinghai, Queensland, Rhode I., Sakhalin, South Carolina, Sumatera, Taiwan, Tennessee, Texas, Thailand, Tibet, Vermont, Victoria, Vietnam, Virginia, West Himalaya, West Virginia, Wisconsin, Xinjiang

Introduced into:

Arizona, Baltic States, Belarus, Central European Rus, Dominican Republic, East European Russia, Hawaii, Kirgizstan, KwaZulu-Natal, Northern Provinces, Transcaucasus, Ukraine, Uzbekistan

Lespedeza Michx. appears in other Kew resources:

First published in Fl. Bor.-Amer. 2: 70 (1803)

Accepted by

  • Ohashi, H., Nemoto, T. & Ohashi, K. (2009). A revision of Lespedeza subgenus Lepspedeza (Leguminosae) of China The Journal of Japanese Botany 84: 143-166.

  • Kew Backbone Distributions

    The International Plant Names Index and World Checklist of Selected Plant Families 2022. Published on the Internet at and
    © Copyright 2017 World Checklist of Selected Plant Families.

  • Kew Names and Taxonomic Backbone

    The International Plant Names Index and World Checklist of Selected Plant Families 2022. Published on the Internet at and
    © Copyright 2017 International Plant Names Index and World Checklist of Selected Plant Families.

  • Legumes of the World Online