Birdsfoot Trefoil (Lotus corniculatus)

Birdsfoot Trefoil (Lotus corniculatus) 

Birdsfoot Trefoil (Lotus corniculatus) is also called Birdfoot Deervetch. It is in the Pea Family (Fabaceae) and the order Fabales. The order and family name comes from the Latin for "bean". The genus name, Lotus, is Latin for "elegant."  The species name indicates that the plant is like a little horn. The pea-like flowers are yellow and about ½ inch (1.3 centimeters) long. They are grouped in flat-toped, whorled clusters at the end of a stem. The seed pod arrangements resemble bird's feet and the compound leaves have three leaflets resembling clover leaves (trefoil arrangement), whence the common name.  The Birdsfoot Trefoil can grow to a height of 24 inches (60 centimeters). This plant flowers from June to September.

Birdsfoot Trefoil (Lotus corniculatus) Detail

The leaves are compound, divided into three ovate leaflets arranged in a clover-like pattern as shown right of center in the photograph above. The leaflets are about ½ inch (1.3 centimeters) long. There are two small leaflets, called stipules at the base of the leaf stalk. Some authorities consider the stipules a part of the compound leaf.

The fruit is a seed pod containing brown seeds.

The root system is simple.

This plant is a medium producer of nitrogen fixation, thereby enriching the soil. It is also useful for stabilizing soil. Wildlife and domestic cattle eat this plant.

There are numerous cultivated varieties of this plant used for cattle feed that may escape into the wild. These cultivated varieties tend to be bigger.

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