There would be plenty of people outraged if someone trespassed and degraded several hundred thousand acres of native rangeland in the Flint Hills. Yet, during the last several years, sericea lespedeza (Lespedeza cuneata), a perennial legume native to Asia, has done just that by invading our prairies and out-competing and displacing native prairie plants. Sericea lespedeza, a statewide noxious weed, may well be the #1 threat to the biological integrity of the tallgrass prairie region of Kansas.
Sericea lespedeza was originally introduced into the United States in 1896 for use as forage for livestock and as an erosion control plant. While sericea lespedeza remains an important forage crop in several southeastern states, it is an invasive weed in the tallgrass prairie. Sericea lespedeza aggressively competes with native prairie plants and can result in a substantial reduction of native grasses and broadleaf plants.
Controlling this invasive weed will take education, research, and the creation of partnerships that bring together private and public entities to help land managers keep sericea lespedeza under control. Helping land managers abate the threat of sericea lespedeza by using biologically and economically sound methods is an example of the type of work The Nature Conservancy’s Flint Hills Initiative will be involved with and is an example of why The Nature Conservancy is so effective in working with landowners.
For information about controlling sericea lespedeza contact any county
Kansas State Cooperative Extension Service.