lespedeza

Lespedeza or Japanese clover (Kummerowia striata) Photo: Rebekah D. Wallace, University of Georgia, Bugwood.org

Updated: April 16, 2021

General description 

Common lespedeza, also known as Japanese clover, (Kummerowia striatasyn. Lespedeza striata) is prostrate summer annual that forms 15-18 inch patches. The stems are wiry.  It has dark green trifoliate (arranged in threes) leaves with three oblong, smooth leaflets. Leaflets have parallel veins nearly at right angles to a prominent mid-vein. Its leaves have smooth edges and a short spur at the tip of each leaflet. Flowers in late summer with small pink to purple, single flowers found in leaf axils on most of the nodes of the main stems. It grows very low to the ground and chokes out thin turf.

Conditions that favor growth

Grows in areas of thin, under-fertilized turf in poor soil.

lespedeza flowers
Lespedeza flowers. Photo: James H. Miller, USDA Forest Service, Bugwood.org

Management in lawns

Cultural lawn care practices

Maintain healthy, dense turf that can compete and prevent weed establishment.

Mechanical management

Hand pulling or using an appropriate weeding tool are the primary means of mechanical weed control in lawns. This is a viable option at the beginning of an infestation and on young weeds. Hand pulling when the soil is moist makes the task easier. Weeds with tap roots like dandelions or have a basal rosette (leaves clustered close to the ground) like plantain are easier to pull than weeds such as Bermudagrass (wiregrass) or creeping Charlie (ground ivy) that spread with stolons or creeping stems that root along the ground.

Chemical treatment in lawns

Herbicides should be used as a last resort because of the potential risks to people, animals, and the environment. Be aware of these lawn herbicide precautions first. 
If you chose this option, spot treat weeds with a liquid, selective, postemergent, broadleaf weed killer applied when weeds are actively growing. Look for a product with one or more of the following active ingredients: 
2, 4-D, MCPP (mecoprop), Dicamba* or Triclopyr.

*Do not spray herbicides containing dicamba over the root zone of trees and shrubs. Roots can absorb the product possibly causing plant damage. Refer to the product label for precautions.