Common Lespedeza


Lespedeza is a dark green, wiry summer annual with trifoliate leaves. Several wide-spreading prostrate branches come from the slender taproot. It grows close to the ground and seldom is cut by a mower. It is a very common summer weed, choking out thin turf. Hairs grow downward on the stem. Leaves are composed of three leaflets. Stipules are light to reddish brown. Small single flowers arise from the leaf axils on most of the nodes of the main stems and are pink or purple.

Cultural Control

Maintain a dense, actively growing turf through proper mowing, fertilizing, and watering practices. Mow at the proper height for your selected adapted turfgrass. Coring and traffic control reduce compaction and encourage desirable turfgrass competition. It is best to control this summer annual broadleaf weed in late spring or early summer because it is easier to control at this time and the turf will have a greater chance of recovering the areas previously occupied by weeds.

Chemical Control

Herbicide and Formulation Amount of Formulation per 1,000 sq ft Amount of Formulation per Acre Pounds Active Ingredient per Acre
Postemergence Control
[thiencarbazone-methyl + iodosulfuron + dicamba], MOA 14 + 2 + 4 (68 WG) 0.057 to 0.113 oz 2.5 to 4.9 oz 0.106 to 0.208
Precaution and Remarks: For use by licensed applicators in residential and commercial lawns, golf courses (excluding greens), sports fields, parks, recreational areas, roadsides, school grounds, and sod farms. Provides up to 60 days residual control. Use on bermudagrass, zoysiagrass, centipedegrass, and St Augustinegrass. Apply maximum 7.4 ounces per acre per season. Safe to use at high temperatures. Ryegrass can be overseeded 2 weeks after application. Apply 30 days prior to seeding bermudagrass or zoysiagrass. Wait 2 weeks after bermudagrass seedlling emergence or sprigging operation before applying. For zoysiagrass, wait 3 weeks after seedling emergence before applying. A nonionic surfactant or methylated seed oil at 0.25% v/v is required for optimum control.
mecoprop, MOA 4 (various brands) 1.9 L 1 to 1.5 fl oz 2.7 to 4 pt 0.64 to 0.95
1.16 L 1.5 to 2.25 fl oz 4 to 6 pt 0.58 to 0.87
1.74 L 0.75 to 1.5 fl oz 2 to 4 pt 0.43 to 0.87
Precaution and Remarks: Observe same precaution as for 2,4-D. May be used on bentgrass, carpetgrass, centipedegrass, St. Augustinegrass, and other turfgrasses.
[triclopyr + clopyralid], MOA 4 + 4 (3 SL) (various brands) 0.37 to 0.74 fl oz 1 to 2 pt 0.28 to 0.56
0.09 to 0.19
Precaution and Remarks: Do not apply to home lawns. May be used on centipedegrass, bermudagrass, zoysiagrass, tall fescue, creeping red fescue, chewing fescue, Kentucky bluegrass, perennial ryegrass. Repeat treatment may be necessary for prostrate spurge and wild violet. Quali-Pro formulation: maintain 0.5 inch height for warm season turf. Do not apply to bermudagrass sod farms. Wait 3 weeks to reseed. Do not use grass clippings for compost or mulch.
[MCPA ester + triclopyr ester + dicamba], MOA 4 + 4 + 4 (3.6 EC) (various brands) 0.91 to 1.29 fl oz 2.5 to 3.5 pt 1.125 to 1.575
Precaution and Remarks: May be applied to home lawns by a commercial applicator. Not for use on turf grown for resale or other commercial use as sod or seed production. Use on perennial bluegrass, ryegrass, fescue species, bentgrass (excluding greens and tees), bermudagrass, zoysiagrass, and bahiagrass. Do not apply to seedling grasses until well established. Wait 3 to 4 weeks after application to seed.​
[MCPA amine + triclopyr amine + dicamba], MOA 4 + 4 + 4 (4.56 L) (various brands) 0.73 to 1.1 fl oz 2 to 3 pt 1.14 to 1.71
Precaution and Remarks:
[MCPA amine + fluroxypyr ester + triclopyr amine], MOA 4 + 4 + 4 (3.41 L) (Battleship III) 0.37 to 1.47 fl oz 1 to 4 pt 0.42625 to 1.705
Precaution and Remarks: Apply by a commercial applicator to residential, industrial, and institutional lawns, sod farms, parks, cemeteries, athletic fields, roadsides, and golf courses excluding greens and tees. May apply to bentgrass, Kentucky bluegrass, perennial ryegrass, fescue species, bahiagrass, bermudagrass, centipedegrass, and zoysiagrass. Do not spray on warm season turf less than 0.5 inch and do not exceed 3 pints per acre. Generally apply 3 to 4 pints per acre except on fairway bentgrass, which can only tolerate 2 pints per acre. Wait 3 to 4 weeks after application to reseed. Check label for spray adjuvant recommendation.​
florasulam, MOA 2 (0.42 SC) (Defendor) 0.09 fl oz 4 fl oz 0.013125
Precaution and Remarks: Can be used on all established major warm and cool season turfgrass species in residential lawns, golf courses (excluding putting greens), sports fields, sod farms and commercial turf areas. Controls Carolina geranium, species of chickweed, clover and dandelion, vetch, dollarweed and common groundsel. Do not exceed 3 applications or 12 fluid ounces per acre per year. Apply to newly seeded or sprigged turf after third mowing or when tillering and secondary root development has occurred. Wait 4 weeks to reseed. When used alone, add a nonionic surfactant at 0.2% by volume. ​
penoxsulam, MOA 2 (various brands) 0.014 G 3.4 to 10.3 lb 150 to 450 lb 0.02 to 0.06
0.03 G 1.7 to 4.6 lb 75 to 200 lb 0.02 to 0.06
0.31 L 0.092 to 0.55 fl oz 0.25 to 1.5 pt 0.01 to 0.058
Precaution and Remarks: May be applied to residential and commercial lawns, golf courses (excluding greens and tees), parks, athletic fields, and sod farms. Use on turf that has been mowed at least 3 times or sprigs that have developed secondary root systems. Apply up to 75 pounds per acre of 0.03 G or 150 pounds per acre of 0.014 G to perennial ryegrass and tall fescue. Apply up to 150 pounds per acre of 0.03 G or 300 pounds per acre of 0.014 G to bentgrass, Kentucky bluegrass, and fine fescue. Apply up to 200 pounds per acre of 0.03 G or 450 pounds per acre of 0.014 G to bermudagrass, centipedegreass, zoysiagrass, and St. Augustinegrass. Do not apply to dormant centipedegrass. Reapply at 4 weeks if needed but do not exceed 300 pounds per acre of 0.03 G or 650 pounds per acre of 0.014 G per season. After treatment, wait 3 to 4 weeks to reseed. Same statement as above concerning turf uses and reseeding intervals. Bermudagrass and kikuyugrass are the only warm season grasses labeled for use. Apply up to 1 pint per acre on bentgrass, 1.5 pint per acre on bermudagrass and kikuyugrass and 2 pints per acre on tall fescue and perennial ryegrass. Do not apply greater than 2.3 pints per acre per year. Surfactant not required.

Species Data

    • summer annual weed
    • smooth
    • may be some along the midveins and margins only
    • <1/2 inch to 1 inch
    • pinnate; prominent midvein on each leaflet, many parallel veins almost perpendicular to the midvein
    • alternate
    • flowers can range from pink to purple
Common lespedeza growth habit.Figure 1. Common lespedeza growth habit.Common lespedeza growth habit.Figure 2. Common lespedeza growth habit.Common lespedeza leaflet number.Figure 3. Common lespedeza leaflet number.Common lespedeza leaflet number.Figure 4. Common lespedeza leaflet number.Common lespedeza leaflet number.Figure 5. Common lespedeza leaflet number.Common lespedeza leaflet shape.Figure 6. Common lespedeza leaflet shape.Common lespedeza leaflet shape.Figure 7. Common lespedeza leaflet shape.Common lespedeza root type.Figure 8. Common lespedeza root type.Common lespedeza root type.Figure 9. Common lespedeza root type.Common lespedeza root type.Figure 10. Common lespedeza root type.Common lespedeza root type.Figure 11. Common lespedeza root type.

Written By

Photo of Dr. Charles PeacockDr. Charles PeacockProfessor and Extension Turfgrass Specialist (919) 515-7615 charles_peacock@ncsu.eduCrop and Soil Sciences - NC State University
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