Nature in a Minute: The Mystery Plants are Revealed: Mystery Plant B

Bush clover (Lespedeza capitate)  
Fabaceae (Pea or Legume Family)

The flower head of bush clover has many hairy bracts surrounding the small white flowers. After blooming the flower heads gradually turn brown.  The Legume family of plants has super powers. 

I grew up on a farm. My grandfather planted Lespedeza in the farm fields on a rotating basis. I learned as a kid that Lespedeza “fixes nitrogen”. Of course, I had no idea then why that was important but I loved to see the fields of clover and thought the name “lespedeza” was just a cool word to say and to write because it had a “z” in it. 

Now I know why a plant that “fixes nitrogen” is so important.  Inorganic nitrogen compounds are required for biosynthesis. Legumes convert nitrogen molecules in the air into chemical compounds such as amino acids and transfer them to the soil. Without this soil enrichment of Lespedeza food crops like tomatoes, beans and carrots would not grow well.

Lespedeza is also useful in Scrabble, because of that ‘Z”.

Julianne Mehegan at Arches NP

Our guest blogger, Julianne Mehegan, is a wonderful friend of MABA, a birder and a naturalist.

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