Lespedeza capitata (Round-headed Bush Clover)

Plant Info
Also known as: Rabbit foot, Roundhead Lespedeza
Family:Fabaceae (Pea)
Life cycle:perennial
Habitat:sun; dry fields
Bloom season:July - September
Plant height:2 to 5 feet
Wetland Indicator Status:GP: UPL MW: FACU NCNE: FACU
MN county distribution (click map to enlarge):Minnesota county distribution map
National distribution (click map to enlarge):National distribution map

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Detailed Information

Flower: Flower shape: irregular Cluster type: round

[photo of flowers] Densely packed, round to oval clusters about 1½ inch diameter on hairy stalks arising from the upper leaf axils and at the tip of the stem, the cluster stalk shorter than the subtending leaf. Flowers are white, about ¼-inch across, 1 large petal at the top with a spot of purple near its base, and 2 small petals below. The calyx is densely hairy and has 5 sharply pointed lobes about as long as or a little shorter than the flower. Often only a few flowers in a cluster are open at a time.

Leaves and stem: Leaf attachment: alternate Leaf type: compound

[photo of leaves] Leaves are compound in 3s, spreading to nearly erect, short-stalked to nearly stalkless, alternately attached. Leaflets are up to 3 inches long and to 1 inch wide, toothless, usually rounded on both ends but may have a pointed tip. The end leaflet is largest and longer stalked than the 2 lateral leaflets. Surfaces are often densely covered in appressed, silky hairs that can give a gray or blue-green cast, though the upper surface may be only sparsely hairy. Stems are erect to leaning or somewhat nodding at the tip, densely covered in fine white hairs, ridged, and typically unbranched.

Fruit: Fruit type: capsule/pod Fruit type: seed without plume

[photo of fruit] The calyx persists and turns a rusty brown, then dark brown as fruit matures. The seed heads retain their shape through winter. Fruit is a fuzzy pod shorter than the calyx, containing a single seed.


Round-headed Bush Clover is easy to spot in winter, the persistent heads really stand out.

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More photos

Photos by K. Chayka taken in Anoka and Ramsey counties. Other photos courtesy Peter M. Dziuk.


Have you seen this plant in Minnesota, or have any other comments about it?

Posted by: Jeanine - mid-central MN
on: 2010-07-18 18:30:22

We planted 1/2 acre of native wildflowers and grasses 12 years ago. This is the first year I have seen this Round-headed Bush Clover. There is one stand of about 7 or 8 stems.

Posted by: Pat - Pillager, Cass co
on: 2011-11-06 17:05:38

I found this growing near the railroad track and in a ditch. The large seed heads are quite impressive.

Posted by: Keith - Iron Horse SNA
on: 2014-08-15 11:23:21

I photographed this plant while doing my careful walkabout of the Iron Horse SNA several days ago (13 August 2014). I used the MN wildflowers guide in determining what this species is and I would never have guessed that is was a "clover" much less in the Fabaceae Family. Thanks for a great guide that I use routinely. However, I am beginning to get concerned looks from my wife because I leave for hours some days on my walkabouts, returning later and later in the “gloaming hours” of the day. The biodiversity of this small parcel of mesic and wet prairie is mind blowing and I will be returning to study that which we have lost to time and aggressive agricultural practices in Minnesota.

Posted by: Kenny h - Shooting Star Trail West of Rose Creek
on: 2017-07-26 16:43:57

First time I have photographed this in decent bloom...what I like about these are they will stay standing upright all winter, and into spring.

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