Content Detail

Round-headed bush-clover is a large and upright midsummer to early fall perennial with interesting white and magenta flower clusters. With deep roots that can replenish nitrogen in soil and help to prevent erosion, this perennial is great for slopes, naturalized areas, native gardens, pollinator gardens, and wildflower gardens with lots of sunlight and soils that drain well. This species is native to the Chicago region according to Swink and Wilhelm’s Plants of the Chicago Region and current research.

  • Family (English) Pea
  • Family (botanic) Fabaceae (formerly Leguminosae)
  • Tree or plant type Perennial
  • Native locale Chicago area, Illinois, North America
  • Size range Large plant (more than 24 inches)
  • Light exposure Full sun (6 hrs direct light daily), Partial sun / shade (4-6 hrs light daily)
  • Hardiness zones Zone 4, Zone 5 (Northern Illinois), Zone 6 (City of Chicago), Zone 7, Zone 8
  • Soil preference Dry soil, Sandy soil, well-drained soil
  • Tolerances Dry sites, Occasional drought
  • Season of interest midsummer, late summer, early fall
  • Flower color and fragrance White
  • Shape or form Round, Upright
  • Growth rate Fast
  • Wildlife Birds, Browsers, Butterflies, Game mammals, Insect pollinators

Size and method of spreading:

Round-headed bush-clover is often between 2 to 5 feet tall and 1 to 2 feet wide. The primary method of spread for round-headed bush-clover is self-seeding.

Native geographic location and habitat: (include C-value if appropriate)

Round-headed bush-clover is native to the Eastern, Midwestern, and deep Southern United States. C-value: 4.

Attracts birds or pollinators: 

Round-headed bush-clover is visited by bees, birds, and butterflies. Caterpillars of butterflies, moths, and skippers use round-headed bush-clover as a food source, as does a species of lespedeza webworm (Tetralopha scortealis). 

Leaf description:

The leaves of round-headed bush-clover grow erect in groups of three (trifoliate). These trifoliate leaves occur in an alternate arrangement. Each leaflet of the trifoliate leaves have smooth edges (entire margins), a prominent central vein, and are ovate in shape with rounded tips. The leaflets have hair on both sides, but the upper sides may be more sparse than the silky undersides. Within the groups of three, the central leaflet will have a slightly longer stalk (petiole) than the lateral leaflets, which may be nearly stalkless. 

Flower description:

Round-headed bush-clover flowers occur in 2- to 5-inch round or oval clusters that contain numerous flowers. Each individual flower is a white pea-type flower with magenta markings near the throat. Surrounding the base of each flower are hairy (pubescent), leaflike bracts from which the flowers may be barely visible. 

Fruit description:

The fruit of round-headed bush-clover are small, brown, dry legumes, and they will open when mature to release seeds (capsules). They are surrounded by the persistent, pubescent, leaflike bracts that previously surrounded the flowers. 

Plant Care:

The deep central taproots of round-headed bush-clover plants can make them difficult to move once established. The roots form nodules that fix nitrogen in the soil.

List of pests, diseases, and tolerances:

Round-headed bush-clover is often foraged by deer, groundhogs, rabbits, and other mammalian herbivores, making it difficult for the plant to become established. Minor insect pests include broad-headed beetles, imported long-horned beetles, and leaf beetles. This species is not susceptible to major disease issues.


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