Species Profile

Slender Bush-clover

Scientific Name: Lespedeza virginica
Taxonomy Group: Vascular Plants
Range: Ontario
Last COSEWIC Assessment: May 2013
Last COSEWIC Designation: Endangered
SARA Status: Schedule 1, Endangered

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Quick Links: | Photo | Description | Distribution and Population | Habitat | Biology | Threats | Protection | Recovery Initiatives | National Recovery Program | Documents

Image of Slender Bush-clover

Slender Bush-clover Photo 1



This is a perennial herb with one to several erect, simple stems which are sometimes branched near the top. In Ontario, seed bearing plants range from 13 to 71 cm in height. The trifoliate leaves give the plant a top-heavy, wand-like appearance. The terminal leaflets are lightly pubescent (hairy) above, and 4-6 times as long as wide. The flowers are purple, 6-8 mm long, and occur in a few short racemes from the axils of the upper leaves, to form a crowded leafy inflorescence.


Distribution and Population

In the U.S., the plant occurs from central New England, southern Michigan, southern Iowa and eastern Kansas, south to northern Florida and eastern Texas. It is abundant in the southern portion of its range. In Canada, it is restricted to Essex County, Ontario, where two extant and two extirpated populations are known, totalling nearly 200 plants in 1997. This is a marginal increase from the single location with 150 plants reported in 1984.



In Ontario, this species appears to be restricted to prairie-like relics in Essex County. (Due to its southern position and proximity to the Great Lakes, Essex County has the warmest and driest climate of southern Ontario). The known sites have open, dry or dry-mesic, sandy soils; exposed mineral soil; and ground layer vegetation dominated by a specific association of prairie plants. The apparent requirement of exposed mineral soil indicates that some form of habitat disturbance may be necessary to maintain suitable conditions for this species. Also, the plant does not appear to be able to regenerate under dense shade, nor withstand even moderate levels of interspecific competition.



Throughout its range, the Slender Bush Clover blooms in August or September. It produces both showy and inconspicuous flowers. Seed production is low in small plants, but several hundred seeds may be produced by larger plants. The fruit remains on the plant for much of the winter. Bush clovers are eaten by a variety of insects, most notably the larvae of several butterfly species.



Both Ontario locations are now protected as parkland by the City of Windsor. Succession threatens the long term viability of both sites and the population remains at a relatively low level. The prescribed spring grass fires which are frequent at this site may be necessary to remove the litter buildup (resulting in warmer soil temperatures), reduce soil fertility, and reduce interspecific competition, especially from shade producing shrubs and cool season herbs. The potential remains for accidental elimination of either site by human activity.



Federal Protection

The 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

To know if this species is protected by provincial or territorial laws, consult the provinces' and territories' websites.


Recovery Initiatives

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

  • COSEWIC assessment and update status report on the slender bush-clover Lespedeza virginica in Canada (2013)

    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 further north); populations at the edge of a species’ range may be genetically distinct.

COSEWIC Assessments

  • COSEWIC Assessment - Slender Bush-Clover (2000)

    Designated Endangered in April 1986. Status re-examined and confirmed Endangered in April 1999 and May 2000. May 2000 assessment based on new quantitative criteria applied to information from the existing April 1999 status report.

Response Statements

  • Response Statement - Slender Bush-clover (2013)

    This perennial species occupies small patches of remnant tallgrass prairie and savanna at just one location in southern Ontario, where it is at risk from the combined impacts of a lack of natural disturbance by periodic fires and the presence of invasive plant species.  There is a continuing decline in the quality and area of habitat available for the plant.

Recovery Strategies

  • Recovery Strategy for the Slender Bush-clover (Lespedeza virginica) in Canada (2016)

    The Minister of the Environment is the competent minister for the recovery of the Slender Bush-clover and has prepared the federal component of this recovery strategy (Part 1), as per section 37 of SARA. SARA section 44 allows the Minister to adopt all or part of an existing plan for the species if it meets the requirements under SARA for content (sub-sections 41(1) or (2)). The Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources (now the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry) led the development of the attached recovery strategy for the Slender Bush-clover (Part 2) in cooperation with Environment Canada. The Province of Ontario also led the development of the attached Government response (Part 3), which is the Ontario Government’s policy response to its provincial recovery strategy and summarizes the prioritized actions that the Ontario government intends to take.

COSEWIC Annual Reports

  • COSEWIC Annual Report – 2012-2013 (2013)

    Under Canada’s Species at Risk Act (SARA), the foremost function of COSEWIC is to “assess the status of each wildlife species considered by COSEWIC to be at risk and, as part of the assessment, identify existing and potential threats to the species”. COSEWIC held two Wildlife Species Assessment Meetings in this reporting year (October, 2012 to September 2013) from November 25 to November 30, 2012 and from April 28 to May 3, 2013. During the current reporting period, COSEWIC assessed the status or reviewed the classification of 73 wildlife species. The wildlife species assessment results for the 2012-2013 reporting period include the following: Extinct: 0 Extirpated: 2 Endangered: 28 Threatened: 19 Special Concern: 19 Data Deficient: 4 Not at Risk: 1 Total: 73 Of the 73 wildlife species examined, COSEWIC reviewed the classification of 50 species that had been previously assessed. The review of classification for 26 of those species resulted in a confirmation of the same status as the previous assessment.

Recovery Document Posting Plans

  • Environment and Climate Change Canada's Three-Year Recovery Document Posting Plan (2016)

    Environment and Climate Change Canada’s Three-Year Recovery Document Posting Plan identifies the species for which recovery documents will be posted each fiscal year starting in 2014-2015. Posting this three year plan on the Species at Risk Public Registry is intended to provide transparency to partners, stakeholders, and the public about Environment and Climate Change Canada’s plan to develop and post these proposed recovery strategies and management plans. However, both the number of documents and the particular species that are posted in a given year may change slightly due to a variety of circumstances. Last update March 31, 2017