Scientific Name: Lespedeza virginica
Taxonomy Group: Vascular Plants
Last COSEWIC Assessment: May 2013
Last COSEWIC Designation: Endangered
SARA Status: Schedule 1, Endangered
Image of Slender Bush-clover
Slender Bush-clover (Lespedeza virginica (L.) Britt.) is an erect perennial herb in the pea family (Fabaceae). It is generally less than 1 m tall, and occasionally branched, arising from a woody, nodule-bearing rhizome. Its stem, leaves, branches, stalks and fruit are covered with short, appressed hairs. The trifoliate, compound leaves are strongly ascending with leaflets ranging in size from 1.5 to 3 cm. Flowers are pea-like in appearance, normally pink to purple. Fruits are single-seeded 4-7 mm pods produced by either chasmogamous (open) or cleistogamous (closed) flowers. Canadian populations of Slender Bush-clover are near the northern range limit for the species (some U.S. populations are frrther north); populations at the edge of a species’ range may be genetically distinct. (Updated 2017/05/31)
Distribution and Population
Slender Bush-clover ranges from eastern Texas and northern Florida to central New England, southern Ontario, and southern Michigan. Disjunct populations occur in central Wisconsin, southern Minnesota, and northern Mexico. In Canada, it is currently known from a single subpopulation in southwestern Ontario in the City of Windsor, representing less than 1% of its global range. (Updated 2017/05/31)
Slender Bush-clover is found in a wide variety of open habitats across its range from old fields, prairies, roadsides and clearings, to savannas, pine barrens, dry upland woods, and woodland borders. In Ontario, it is restricted to tallgrass prairie and savanna habitat of the Ojibway Prairie complex. (Updated 2017/05/31)
Slender Bush-clover produces flowers and fruits many times over its lifespan, and plants have been shown to live up to 17 years elsewhere in its range. It flowers mainly in August and September in Ontario. Plants can produce both chasmogamous (open) flowers, pollinated mainly by bees and butterflies, and cleistogamous (closed) flowers that self-pollinate in bud. Slender Bush-clover is drought- and fire-tolerant, possessing woody rhizomes with nodules that fix nitrogen because of symbiotic interactions with bacteria. Seeds have hard coatings and germination may be enhanced through scarification, either by ground fires or passage through the digestive tracts of animals, and seeds have been shown to remain viable for at least 54 years. It is a food plant for a variety of insects and a nectar source for many others. (Updated 2017/05/31)
The destruction of much its original habitat has severely fragmented the southern Ontario landscape, isolating the remaining subpopulations from other areas of suitable habitat, and thus limiting the species’ ability to expand. The tallgrass prairie and savanna habitats that the species currently occupies are critically imperiled in Ontario. Current threats to Slender Bush-clover are: 1) altered disturbance regime resulting in successional changes to habitat, reducing open areas for germination and overall growth and survival; and 2) interspecific competition from invasive species, namely Crown-vetch, Spotted Knapweed, and Autumn Olive. (Updated 2017/05/31)
Federal ProtectionThe Slender Bush-clover is protected under the federal Species at Risk Act (SARA). More information about SARA, including how it protects individual species, is available in the Species at Risk Act: A Guide.
The Slender Bush-clover is protected by the Ontario Endangered Species Act. Under this Act, it is prohibited to kill, harm, harass, or collect this species, or to destroy its habitat. The regulation applies only to sites in the Tallgrass Prairie Heritage Park, Ojibway Park, and Black Oak Heritage Park.
Provincial and Territorial Protection
Status of Recovery Planning
Recovery Strategies :
Name Recovery Strategy for the Slender Bush-clover (Lespedeza virginica) in Canada
Status First posting on SAR registry
PLEASE NOTE: Not all COSEWIC reports are currently available on the SARA Public Registry. Most of the reports not yet available are status reports for species assessed by COSEWIC prior to May 2002. Other COSEWIC reports not yet available may include those species assessed as Extinct, Data Deficient or Not at Risk. In the meantime, they are available on request from the COSEWIC Secretariat.
6 record(s) found.
- COSEWIC Status Reports (1 record(s) found.)
- COSEWIC Assessments (1 record(s) found.)
- Response Statements (1 record(s) found.)
- Recovery Strategies (1 record(s) found.)
- COSEWIC Annual Reports (1 record(s) found.)
- Recovery Document Posting Plans (1 record(s) found.)
COSEWIC Status Reports
COSEWIC Annual Reports
Recovery Document Posting Plans
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