What Does Japanese Clover Look Like?

Many yards and gardens have become infested with Japanese Clover, which has quickly earned a name for being an obnoxious weed.

This kind of clover is an invasive plant that can suffocate desirable plants in your lawn and garden by choking them out. It grows fast, is hard to remove, and often takes over an area if left unchecked.

Have you ever heard of Japanese Clover before and wondered what it looked like? Well then, this article is for you. In this guide, we will discuss this undesirable weed, as well as what it is and how to identify it, and how to get rid of Japanese Clover.

So, what does Japanese Clover look like? Let’s get to it!

What is Japanese Clover?

Common Lespedeza, also known as Japanese Clover, is a flowering legume. Its botanical name is Kummerowia striata, and it’s native to most parts of Asia, particularly the east. It has been introduced as an invasive weed species in the eastern region of the United States.

It was most likely carried to North America as an unintentional seed contaminant, but it was then cultivated and imported on purpose. The plant was first cultivated in the 1800s and is now present throughout the United States, although it is concentrated in the east, and it flourishes in disturbed, sandy soil.

It improves human health and agricultural farming, as well as providing food for a variety of species in the ecosystem. It has been used to keep pastures green and feed livestock with forage. It’s also been used to protect abandoned coal mines from erosion and prevent loose, sandy soil or slopes from sliding.

Where Does Japanese Clover Grow?

Japanese clover is a grass that’s native to China and Japan. It has become invasive in North America, with sightings as far west as New Mexico on the east coast.

Japanese clover is a group plant; you’re more likely to find a cluster of Japanese Clover than a solitary growing weed. It’s most common to see it growing in fields, on forest floors, along the side of roads, or other areas where the soil has been disturbed.

This weed flourishes in moist, sandy soil with direct sunshine and is hardy, so it may grow in a range of situations. It grows at a pH of 6.0–6.5, but it can also thrive in slightly alkaline soil (up to 7.0–7am pH).

How to Identify Japanese Clover

In this section, we will go over the identifying features of Japanese Clover. This way, you can be sure that if you see this weed in your yard, you’ll be able to identify it and then take steps to remove it.

Visual Characteristics 

The Japanese Clover weed has wiry, sharp stems. Its leaves are dark green, and trifoliate; they have three oblong, smooth leaflets with a prominent mid-vein. The leaf veins run at a 45-degree angle to a distinct middle vein. Each leaflet has smooth edges and a short spur on the end.

It grows low to the ground and can suffocate thin turfgrasses that it grows next to. It prefers to grow horizontally, but it can also grow upwards up to 40 centimeters long.

The flowers of the Japanese Clover are small, solitary, and either pink, purple, or white. They can be found on the majority of the main stems’ nodes in leaf axils. The tiny, legume pod-like fruit of the flowers has a single seed contained inside.

Growth Stages

The flowers of the Japanese Clover bloom from August through September, and its seeds ripen and spread out in October and November.

Other Unique Traits

Japanese Clover is a weed that has been used in traditional Chinese medicine for centuries to treat inflammation. The plant improves circulation, removes heat, and detoxes blood. It has been utilized to cure diarrhea, wounds, abscesses, and nausea in the past. It can be used to alleviate fever; it may also aid with dizziness, nausea, vertigo, and appetite stimulation.

It also is a natural nitrogen fixer, meaning it takes nitrogen out of the atmosphere and converts it into nitrogen that itself and other plants can utilize.

Plants That Look Like Japanese Clover

The closest relative to Japanese Clover is the Korean Clover, or Kummerowia stipulacea.

Korean Clover often co-occurs with Japanese Clover, but it can be distinguished by large papery stipules (small leaf-life appendages on the main leafs), which are especially apparent on young leaves.

How to Get Rid of Japanese Clover

The most organic approach to get rid of Japanese Clover is pulling the plants by hand, carefully removing as much of the root as possible. This needs constant attention and effort, but it may be successful if done in a small space.

Covering the region with black plastic or cardboard is another organic approach that may help. This will keep out the light and kill the plants. This technique is more time-consuming than any of the others, although less labor-intensive.

However, it may be difficult to remove Japanese clover using only natural methods. Chemical herbicides can be an efficient approach to eradicate Japanese Clover and other weeds, but you should exercise caution when doing so because it may also harm other ornamental and beneficial plants in your garden. A weed killer with glyphosate as its main component would be the best option.

Final Thoughts

Japanese Clover is a weed that can be found all throughout the United States, and many other parts of the world. It grows in disturbed areas, such as roadsides and railroad tracks. We hope that this post has provided you with the information you need to recognize it the next time you’re out and about.

It has some unique characteristics that make it stand out from other plants, and it’s important to be able to identify it correctly so you don’t mistake it for something else. It is an invasive weed, and can quickly take over a garden or neighborhood if not controlled and monitored, so it is important to correctly identify Japanese Clover as this will allow you to get rid of it from an area.

As always, if you have any questions about this or any other plant, please contact us and we would be happy to help. Thank you for reading, and have fun weeding!