Kummerowia (PROSEA)

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Plant Resources of South-East Asia
List of species

Kummerowia Schindler

Protologue: Feddes. repert. 10: 403 (1912).
Family: Leguminosae - Papilionoideae
Chromosome number: 2n= 20 (K. stipulacea), 22 (K. striata)

Major species and synonyms

  • Kummerowia stipulacea (Maxim.) Makino, Bot. Mag. (Tokyo) 28: 107 (1914), synonym: Lespedeza stipulacea Maxim. (1859), Microlespedeza stipulacea (Maxim.) Makino (1914).
  • Kummerowia striata (Thunb. ex Murray) Schindler, Feddes repert. 10: 403 (1912), synonyms: Hedysarum striatum Thunb. ex Murray (1784), Desmodium striatum (Thunb. ex Murray) DC. (1825), Lespedeza striata (Thunb. ex Murray) Hooker & Arnott (1838).

Vernacular names

  • General: kummerowia (En).
  • K. stipulacea . Korean lespedeza, Korean bushclover, Korean clover (En).
  • K. striata . Japanese lespedeza, annual lespedeza, common lespedeza (En).

Origin and geographic distribution

Kummerowia consists of 2 species and both are native to temperate eastern Asia. K. stipulacea is distributed in Japan, Korea, the Amur and Ussuri regions of the Russian Federation, China (except in the southern parts) and central Taiwan. It was introduced into the United States, where it became naturalized in the south-east, particularly in the 35-40°N area, east of 96°W. K. striata is distributed in Japan, the Amur and Ussuri regions of the Russian Federation, China, northern Taiwan, and Vietnam. It was first reported in the United States in 1846, where it also became naturalized in the south-eastern region, particularly of 30-35°N, eastward of 96°W. A taller, more vigorous, late-maturing strain was introduced from Kobe (Japan) into the United States in 1919, which led to a greatly expanded area under Kummerowia . In the early 1950s increasing fertilizer use led to a rapid decline in its importance. Both species are scarcely cultivated outside the United States.


Both species produce a thick mat of vegetation providing good ground cover and they are used in the United States for soil conservation and as cover crops. Kummerowia provides good quality forage during summer and is used for grazing and hay. In the United States it is often double-cropped with small cereals harvested for grain or fodder, or is oversown in pastures. Medicinal uses for K. striata have been reported in China.


The hay quality of both species is considered to be nearly as good as that of lucerne hay and palatability is excellent. In poor soils their phosphorus and cobalt contents may be lower than required by ruminants. The forage is non-bloating. After flowering starts the feeding value declines, becoming inadequate for dairy cattle. The approximate average composition of hay of K. striata per 100 g dry matter is: crude protein 15 g, fat 3 g, crude fibre 35 g, N-free extract 45 g, ash 5 g, Ca 1 g, P 0.3 g, K 1 g, Mg 0.3 g, Fe 35 mg. The composition of the hay of K. stipulacea is very similar, its ash and mineral nutrient contents being slightly higher. The weight of 1000 seeds is about 1.9 g.


Erect or decumbent, much branched, annual herbs with taproot. Stems slightly pubescent. Leaves alternate, trifoliolate, petiolate, usually small; stipules 2, ovate-lanceolate, large, soft-membranaceous, persistent; stipels absent; leaflets about equal in shape, subentire. Inflorescence an axillary, 1-6 flowered cluster; flowers chasmogamous or cleistogamous, pedicelled; bracts 2, subtending the pedicel; bracteoles 4, persistent, ovate; calyx campanulate, 5-lobed, lobes subequal, pinnately nerved, persistent in fruit; standard suborbicular to oblong, clawed; wings and keel about equal in length; stamens diadelphous; style long, filiform or strongly recurved in cleistogamous flowers. Fruit a unilocular, indehiscent, 1-seeded pod.

  • K. stipulacea : Stem erect or semi-erect, coarse, strongly and diffusely branched, 10-60 cm long, with upward pointing appressed hairs. Lower leaves spreading, upper leaves folding around developing pod; stipules 4-8 mm long, brown, scarious; petiole 2-5(-10) mm long, glabrate to sparsely antrorse appressed-pubescent; leaflets spatulate to obovate, 0.8-2.5 cm long, 1.5 times as long as wide, base triangular, emarginate, apex mucronulate, glabrous or glabrate, margins conspicuously ciliate. Inflorescence mainly in axil of upper leaves, 1-3-flowered, 1-2 cm long, leafy; bracteoles 1-3-veined; calyx-tube 1 mm long, with obtuse lobes, glabrous; corolla pink to purple, (4.5-)6-7(-10) mm long. Pod ellipsoid, 2.5 mm long, up to halfway covered by the persistent calyx, more commonly borne terminally than along the stems. Seed purplish-black.
  • K. striata : Stem decumbent or erect, slender, branched and wide-spreading, 10-40 cm long, with downward curved, white hairs, often reddish. Stipules 3-6 mm long, striate, brown, papery; petiole 2-4 mm long, retrorsely appressed-pubescent; leaflets obovate to oblong, 6-15(-20) mm × 2-8 mm, tapered at base, apex obtuse to acute, lateral nerves close and distinctly parallel, inconspicuously appressed-ciliate. Flowers in clusters of (1-)2-6, 5 mm long; bracteoles 5-7-veined, not longer than the calyx-tube; calyx 2.5-3.5 mm long, with acute lobes, loosely short-pilose, margins hairy; corolla pink to purple; standard 2 mm × 2 mm; wings white, 3 mm long; keel white, purple-brown-tipped. Pod flat-ellipsoid, 3 mm × 2 mm, minutely hairy and glandular, mottled reddish purple on light brown, covered by the persistent calyx for more than half way. Seed mottled black.

Growth and development

Hard-seededness reduces germination of both species immediately after harvesting to about 50%; 4 months later the germination rate has increased to 90%. Both species will germinate in early spring in the United States, but usually grow very little until June. Flowering is induced by short daylength. In the United States, plants start flowering in August and mature in October-November. K. striata flowers later and requires a longer growing season than K. stipulacea . Exposure of K. stipulacea to a daylength of less than 13-14 hours inhibits vegetative growth and induces flowering. Therefore, early cultivars are not suitable for planting early in the season in the United States.

Other botanical information

Both species were formerly classified in the genus Lespedeza Michaux. They have been transferred to their own genus Kummerowia because of the number of bracteoles (4; in Lespedeza there are 2), petals non-persisting in fruit, and their reproductive isolation.

Older cultivars of K. stipulacea are "Climax" and "Harbin". The improved cultivars "Summit" and "Yadkin" were released in the 1960s. The most widely grown cultivar of K. striata is "Kobe", which is best suited to the southern part of its range in the United States. The more recently released "Marion" is resistant to bacterial wilt and tar spot, and is better adapted to the northern part of the K. striata area. In New South Wales (Australia), "Kaloe" was released in 1971. "Rowan" is fairly nematode-resistant.


Both are warm temperate species, and early frost may kill young plants, whereas mature plants will be killed by the first severe frost in autumn. Both species are fairly drought-resistant. Growth may be severely reduced under dry conditions, but plants recover quickly after rain. The mean annual temperature required ranges from 8-26 °C.

Kummerowia is adapted to a wide range of soil conditions. K. striata does not grow well on wet, poorly drained soils. Optimum pH is 5.5-6.0. K. stipulacea is more sensitive to soil acidity than K. striata . Strain "Iowa 39" of K. stipulacea can grow in soils of pH 8.

Both species failed in trials in Singapore; they are apparently only suited to higher altitudes in the tropics.

Propagation and planting

K. stipulacea and K. striata are propagated by seed. They can be oversown in established grassland by broadcasting seed at a rate of 15-20 kg/ha. When sown as a sole crop, 25-35 kg/ha are needed. Sowing may be carried out from winter to early spring in the United States. K. striata reseeds easily because its fruits are formed close to the ground.


Until the 1950s Kummerowia was most commonly grown in an annual rotation with winter cereals. The initial sowing would be made into the cereal crop during late winter or early spring. The cereal would be harvested for pasture or grain, leaving Kummerowia to be used for summer pasture or hay. About the time Kummerowia was making seed, the field would be ploughed and sown back to cereals.

Although adapted to poor soils, both species respond well to fertilizers and lime. K. stipulacea is more responsive to lime than K. striata . It is recommended to apply nitrogen and phosphorus fertilizers at sowing or when the crop starts to develop. Nitrogen applications of more than 35 kg/ha will reduce stands in mixtures with grasses. Fertilizing with boron is important when harvesting seed or when reseeding of the crop is desired. Natural reseeding in both species results in good stands year after year if competition is not too severe and harvested not too late in the season. Grazing or mowing will stop upward growth, causing lower branches to spread along the ground. Heavy trampling is tolerated and some seed is produced even under heavy grazing.

Diseases and pests

Both species are considered fairly tolerant to diseases and pests in the United States, but they may nevertheless experience considerable losses. Losses caused by diseases are much greater than those caused by pests. Bacterial wilt ( Xanthomonas lespedezae ) is serious in the growing area in the United States. Tar spot ( Phyllachora lespedezae ) causes heavy spotting of leaves, followed by defoliation and reduction in yield and quality. K. stipulacea is more susceptible to both diseases than K. striata . Several nematodes attack Kummerowia ; root-knot nematode ( Meloidogyne spp.) may cause serious losses on sandy soils. "Rowan" is fairly resistant.

Grasshoppers may cause defoliation, but only when no other crops are available. Larvae of the crane fly ( Tipula simplex ), the alfalfa hopper ( Stictocephala festina ) and the lespedeza webworm ( Tetralopha scortealis ) occasionally cause damage in the United States.


If reseeding is desired, plants should be cut early and at more than 10 cm above the ground, to allow adequate regrowth. For hay, the crop should be cut at early bloom to obtain optimal quality. The hay contains less moisture than most other forages and cures quickly. Under optimum conditions, it can be cut in the morning and baled in the afternoon of the same day. When grown for seed, the crop is combine-harvested as soon as it is mature, to reduce losses from shattering.


Hay yield ranges from 2500-5000 kg/ha. Average daily weight gains of steers fed with Kummerowia hay is 600-900 g. Seed yield is commonly 200-400 kg/ha, but up to 600 kg/ha can be obtained under favourable conditions.

Genetic resources and breeding

The number of accessions of both species held by the United States Plant Germplasm System is small (22 of K. stipulacea and 43 of K. striata ) and in need of thorough evaluation. There is a great need for collection of additional germplasm material that could provide breeders with more variability. At present, no Kummerowia breeding programme exists.


Kummerowia species are promising as cover and forage crops under subtropical or tropical highland conditions. It would therefore be worthwhile to test both species under these conditions in South-East Asia. No new developments in the United States are expected for either species, unless the cost of nitrogen fertilizers increases and legumes become more economically attractive.


  • Davis, D.K., McGraw, R.L. & Beuselinck, P.R., 1994. Herbage and seed production of annual lespedezas as affected by harvest management. Agronomy Journal 68: 704-706.
  • Duke, J.A., 1981. Handbook of legumes of world economic importance. Plenum Press, New York, United States. pp. 116-120.
  • Henning, J.C. & Risner, N.E., 1993. Annual lespedeza. Agricultural publication G04515. Department of Agronomy, University of Missouri, Columbia, United States.
  • Henson, R. (Editor), 1957. The lespedezas. Advances in Agronomy 9: 122-141.
  • Hoveland, C.S. & Donelly, E.D., 1985. The lespedezas. In: Heath, M.E., Barnes, R.F. & Metcalfe, D.S. (Editors): Forages. The science of grassland agriculture. 4th Edition. Iowa State University Press, Ames, Iowa, United States. pp. 129-135.
  • Offut, M.S., 1986. Some effect of photoperiod on the performance of Korean lespedeza. Crop Science 8: 309-313.


J.A. Mosjidis