Lespedeza capitata is a perennial herb, 0.6-1.5 m tall, erect, stems stiff, rather stout sparsely branched above or simple, densely hairy, often appearing silvery; roots with some ability to fix nitrogen (USDA, NRCS 2006); stipules linear (Yatskievych 2006).
Leaves alternate, stalk 0.2-0.5 cm, shorter than stalk of middle leaflet, blade 3-parted, leaflets 1.5-5 cm long, to 1.8 cm wide, oblong to narrowly elliptic, usually hairy on both sides.
Flowers dull yellow-white with purple spot at base, to 1.2 cm long, pea-flower-shaped, wings longer than keel, corolla surrounded by hairy calyx lobes 0.6-1 cm long; some minute, closed, self-fertile flowers hidden among larger, open-pollinated flowers; inflorescence of dense, rounded, head-like clusters, along upper stem; blooms August-Sept. (Hough 1983)
Fruit dry, 1-seeded, hairy, 0.4-0.6 cm long, shorter than calyx lobes; fruits Sept.-Oct. (Hough 1983).
Wetland status: FACU-.
Frequency in NYC: Occasional.
Habitat: Open fields, sandy soil. Often planted in grassland or back-dune restorations. Tolerant of drought and low nutrient soils, pH 5.7-8.2; intolerant of shade and salt (USDA, NRCS 2006).
Notes: Seeds eaten by quail, plants eaten by deer (Martin et al. 1951). Winter plant conspicuous, dark brown with persistent fuzzy, brown flower heads (Levine 1995).