Plant of the Week: Gibralter Bushclover

Photo by Friends of the High Line

The High Line’s planting design is inspired by the self-seeded landscape that grew up between rail tracks after the trains stopped running in the 1980s. Today, the High Line includes more than 300 species of perennials, grasses, shrubs, and trees – each chosen for their hardiness, adaptability, diversity, and seasonal variation in color and texture. Some of the species that originally grew on the High Line’s rail bed are reflected in the park landscape today.

This week we share one of our gardeners’ current favorites with you.

Lespedeza thunbergii ‘Gibraltar,’orGibraltar bushclover, is a medium-sized flowering shrub in the pea family, Fabaceae. Originally native to Japan and China, Lespedeza thunbergii has naturalized here in the United States. The cultivar ‘Gibraltar’ was selected for its vivid rosy pink flowers and shorter stature. It's named after the historic Gibraltar estate in Wilmington, Delaware, where it was discovered.

Most plants in the Fabaceae family, known as legumes and including Lespedeza species, have roots that house bacteria capable of fixing nitrogen from the air and making it available to nearby plants. This helps reduce the need for nitrogen fertilizers in the garden setting.

Growing to a height of five feet in one season, this fast-growing shrub requires rejuvenation pruning each spring to keep it check. Throughout late summer and early fall, Lespedeza’s cascading fountain-like branches are covered in six-inch-long racemes of bright pink pea-like flowers. In winter, with the weight of the flowers and leaves gone, its appearance changes to one of a slightly upright sculptural form.

As pictured above after a fresh snow and ice storm, the delicate silhouette becomes a focal point in the winter landscape.


The silhouette of Lespedeza thunbergii ‘Gibraltar’ can be spotted in the Washington Grasslands near Little West 12th Street.

Download our December bloom list.

Our horticultural team counts on members and friends like you to help keep the High Line beautiful and thriving. Join our community of supporters who play an essential role in the High Line’s most important gardening projects – become a member of Friends of the High Line today!

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