A handful of small populations of a highly invasive plant called Serecia Lespedeza have recently been found in Dallas County. If not controlled early on, this plant can quickly invade and severely degrade pastures and grasslands as evidenced by landscape-scale infestations found in other states such as Oklahoma, Kansas and Missouri.
Serecia lespedeza, also known as Chinese lespedeza, is a non-native, semi-woody legume that grows in a wide variety of soils. Young plants are not overly aggressive, however, once established they can quickly overtake an area as they produce copious amounts of seed and secrete chemicals that reduce production of adjacent grasses.
Despite having some similarities to alfalfa, Serecia lespedeza is only palatable to livestock when very young, before it develops high tannin levels. Unfortunately, the previous year’s growth is woody with sharp bristles and usually prevents the next year’s young plants from being grazed. Traditional 2,4-D based herbicides are not effective either; however, triclopyr containing herbicides such as Remedy and Pasturegard do provide control. Landowners and livestock operators are encouraged to become familiar with this plant as early detection and eradication is the most effective means of control.
Serecia lespedeza was introduced to the United States from Asia in the late 1800s. It has been widely planted in the Southeastern U.S. for erosion control and mine reclamation. It can be spread by birds, contaminated equipment and most importantly contaminated hay from out-of-state; which is especially important due to last year’s drought and current dry conditions.
There are abundant resources online to help with the identification of this plant and Kansas State Agronomy has a good website on its control: http://www.agronomy.k- state.edu/extension/p.aspx?tabid=24. If you think you have seen this plant in Dallas County or have questions on its ID or control please contact the County Weed Commissioner at 515-993-5868 x. 210.