Vascular Plants of North Carolina
Account for Wand Lespedeza - Lespedeza violacea   (L.) Persoon
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Section 6 » Order Fabales » Family Fabaceae
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Author(L.) Persoon
DistributionThroughout the Mountains and Piedmont. Occurs over most of the western Coastal Plain, including the Sandhills region, but rare to absent over much of the northeastern and eastern counties.

This is a widespread Eastern species, found in most counties within its large range. Occurs from ME, MI, and MO south to the FL Panhandle and LA.
AbundanceGenerally common across the Piedmont and Mountains, except not numerous in the higher Mountains. Fairly common to common in the Sandhills, but generally uncommon in the western and central Coastal Plain and rare in the eastern parts.
HabitatThis species grows in typical lespedeza places -- favoring dry soil of wooded margins, openings in upland woods, powerline clearings, old fields, and other fairly dry soil in mainly sunny places.
PhenologyBlooms from July to September, and fruits from August to November.
IdentificationThis is a fairly slender and erect species, growing to about 2-2.5 feet tall, with usually a few ascending branches toward the upper part of the plant. The stem is somewhat smooth, but it may have some hairs. It has leaves with 3 leaflets and a fairly long petiole, it often being 3/4-1-inch long. The leaflets and petiole are somewhat glabrous, and each leaflet is elliptical with a rounded tip and only about 2/3-inch long and 1/2-inch wide or less. It has narrow inflorescences, in the upper leaf axils, with the clusters of small purplish flowers being close to the branches or upper part of the stem, such that the upper several inches of the stem and branches are covered in small flowers. It can be confused somewhat with Desmodium marilandicum, which also has similar leaflets and a longish petiole, with few hairs; however, the lespedeza has a noticeable stipule at the base of each leaf, and the leaflets of the lespedeza are somewhat thin, pale green, and might be slightly creased down the midline. Desmodium leaflets tend to look brighter or darker green, look a but thicker, and tend not to look creased. L. violacea also has much of the same overall structure and inflorescence type as L. virginica and L. stuevei, but both of these have nearly sessile leaves that are quite hairy; the first of these also has quite narrow leaflets (several times longer than wide), whereas the latter has somewhat larger leaflets that are more elliptical and less rounded. In most of the mountains and the Piedmont, you will encounter this species fairly often in your walks along dry woodland borders or in powerline clearings; in the Coastal Plain it is easier to find in the Sandhills region, in open pine/scrub oak sandhills.
Taxonomic CommentsFor most of the 20th Century, this species was treated as L. intermedia. However, it has been re-named now as L. violacea, which was used for a completely different plant. The switch was made due to examination of the type specimens. The "old volacea" has now been re-named L. frutescens.

Other Common Name(s)Violet Lespedeza, Violet Bush-clover. Note that just because it is named as L. violacea does not mean it should be named as Violet Lespedeza, as the old L. violacea might also have been known by that name. Several references use Wand Lespedeza, which is less confusing; it and a few other species are wand-like, but most Lespedeza species have purple or "violet" flowers.
State RankS5? [S5]
Global RankG5
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B.A. SorrieSandhills Game Land, roadside longleaf near Broadacres Lake, Aug 2019. RichmondPhoto_natural
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