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bird's-foot trefoil, birdfoot trefoil, common bird's-foot trefoil, garden bird's-foot-trefoil

Habit Herbs annual or perennial, 5–70 cm, glabrous or sparsely pilose to strigose; usually taprooted, rarely rhizomatous.

ascending or prostrate, solid, not succulent.


5–30 mm;

rachis (1–)2–10 mm;

leaflet blades sometimes asymmetric, obovate to oblanceolate, oblong, or ovate, 4–22 × 2–11 mm, length 1.6–3(–4) times width, apex obtuse and mucronate or acuminate.



bracts (1–)3-foliolate.


decumbent to erect, 1.5–12 cm.


10–17 mm;

calyx 5–7.5 mm, lobes not recurved in bud, usually triangular, rarely ovate, (1.5–)2.5–4.5 mm, shorter to slightly longer than tube, tube villous;

petals bright yellow, marked with red, turning orange, 8–14 mm, wings shorter to longer than keel.


brown, narrowly oblong, 15–35 × 2–3 mm, not septate.


5–30, yellowish or light to dark brown, mottled or sometimes not, globose to round-oblong, 1–1.7 mm, smooth.


= 24.

Lotus corniculatus

Phenology Flowering summer.
Habitat Open, often wet disturbed, ruderal sites, lawns, fields, roadsides.
Elevation 0–1800 m. (0–5900 ft.)
from FNA
AL; AR; AZ; CA; CO; CT; DC; DE; GA; IA; ID; IL; IN; KS; KY; MA; MD; ME; MI; MN; MO; MT; NC; ND; NE; NH; NJ; NM; NV; NY; OH; OK; OR; PA; SD; TN; TX; UT; VA; VT; WA; WI; WV; WY; AB; BC; MB; NB; NL; NS; ON; PE; QC; SK; YT; SPM; Eurasia; n Africa [Introduced also in Mexico, Central America, South America, Atlantic Islands (Iceland), Australia]
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Lotus corniculatus has been widely introduced both as a forage crop and for roadside stabilization throughout North America. M. D. Ross and W. T. Jones (1985) presented evidence that L. corniculatus is an allotetraploid derived from the hybrid between either L. tenuis or L. alpinus (Seringe) Schleicher ex Ramond, as the pistillate parent, and L. uliginosus. This would explain the close morphological similarity with L. tenuis.

(Discussion copyrighted by Flora of North America; reprinted with permission.)

Source FNA vol. 11.
Parent taxa Fabaceae > subfam. Faboideae > Lotus
Sibling taxa
L. angustissimus, L. krylovii, L. subbiflorus, L. tenuis, L. uliginosus
Name authority Linnaeus: Sp. Pl. 2: 775. (1753) — (as corniculata)
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