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Lotus corniculatus

Lotus corniculatus L.

 

Bird’s Foot Trefoil

KingdomPlantaePlants, but not fungi, lichens, or algae (from Stearn’s Botanical Latin)
SubkingdomTracheobiontaVascular plants—plants with a “circulatory system” for delivering water and nutrients
DivisionMagnoliophytaFlowering plants, also known as angiosperms
ClassMagnoliopsidaDicotyledons—plants with two initial seed leaves
SubclassRosidaeRoses, legumes, proteas, dogwoods, hydrangeas, mistletoes, euphorbias, grapes, many more
OrderFabalesLegumes (pea and bean families)
FamilyFabaceaeLegume family (peas and beans)
GenusLotusIncludes trefoils and deervetches, but not (ironically) lotus flowers (Lotus, from Greek, meant a fruit that made people forget their homes)
SpeciescorniculatusMeans “horned”

About plant names...

Bird’s foot trefoil is native to the temperate grassland regions of North Africa and Eurasia. They are naturalized in North America, now widespread, and invasive in some areas. The name stems from the fruits, which resemble a bird’s foot.

Identification: Plants are 6-24" (15-60 cm) tall. Leaves, pointed ovals in shape, occur in groups of five per petiole. A group of three at the end emerge from the same point, and are ½" (1.3 cm) × ⅛" (3.2 mm). The remaining two are lower, smaller, and opposite to each other. Attractive, bright yellow flowers appear in clusters of two to eight. Flowers become more orange in color over time. Each flower is bilaterally symmetrical, composed of 3 upper and 2 lower lobes, about ½" (1.3 cm) around. Thin red lines are visible on the upper lobe at close quarters. The fruits are shaped like beans, about 1" (2.5 cm) × ⅛" (3.2 mm), in small groups. The fruits’ long straight shape and emergence from a central point resemble a bird’s foot. Fruits are green, maturing to dark red. Like other members of the pea family, these plants trap atmospheric nitrogen, making their own fertilizer, allowing them to colonize soils that other plants cannot.

In ultraviolet light, bird’s foot trefoil beckons bees (who, unlike us, can see ultraviolet) very differently—bright red, with blue edges! The photo is by Bjørn Rørslett, who has photographed many flowers in UV light.

Online References:

Lotus corniculatus on Missouriplants.com

Lotus corniculatus on Invasive.org, Center for Invasive Species and Ecosystem Health

Lotus corniculatus on the Connecticut Botanical Society's Connecticut wildflowers site

Lotus corniculatus at the University of Wisconsin's Robert W. Freckmann Herbarium

Lotus corniculatus at the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations

Lotus corniculatus on Plants for a Future, a resource and information centre for edible and otherwise useful plants

Lotus corniculatus on CalPhotos

Lotus corniculatus on Wikimedia Commons

Lotus corniculatus on eFloras

Lotus corniculatus (Bird’s Foot Trefoil)

6/5/2010 · Nashua River Rail Trail, Groton Center, Groton, MA
≈ 2½ × 2" (6.1 × 5.3 cm)

Lotus corniculatus (Bird’s Foot Trefoil)

8/7/2013 · Amos Kendall Conservation Land, Dunstable, MA
≈ 9 × 6" (22 × 15 cm)

Lotus corniculatus (Bird’s Foot Trefoil)

8/26/2007 · OR
≈ 9 × 6" (23 × 15 cm) ID is uncertain

Lotus corniculatus (Bird’s Foot Trefoil)

6/27/2012 · Townsend Wildlife Management Area, Townsend, MA
≈ 5 × 3½" (13 × 9.2 cm)

Lotus corniculatus (Bird’s Foot Trefoil)

6/5/2010 · Nashua River Rail Trail, Groton Center, Groton, MA
≈ 1 × ⅞" (2.7 × 2.5 cm)

Lotus corniculatus (Bird’s Foot Trefoil)

6/27/2016 · Nashua River Rail Trail, near Nashoba Hospital, Ayer, MA

Lotus corniculatus (Bird’s Foot Trefoil)

8/27/2016 · Williams Barn and Sørhaug Woods, Groton, MA

Lotus corniculatus description by Thomas H. Kent, last updated 5 Oct 2016.

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Lotus corniculatus (Bird’s Foot Trefoil)

6/27/2012 · Townsend Wildlife Management Area, Townsend, MA
≈ 4½ × 3" (11 × 7.9 cm)

Lotus corniculatus (Bird’s Foot Trefoil)

8/4/2006 · Mt. Mansfield, Stowe, VT ID is uncertain

Lotus corniculatus (Bird’s Foot Trefoil)

8/25/2007 · Oswald West State Park, OR
≈ 4 × 2½' (1.2 × 0.8 m) ID is uncertain

Lotus corniculatus (Bird’s Foot Trefoil)

8/27/2016 · Williams Barn and Sørhaug Woods, Groton, MA

Lotus corniculatus (Bird’s Foot Trefoil)

Flowers redden as they age. · 6/27/2016 · Nashua River Rail Trail, near Nashoba Hospital, Ayer, MA

Lotus corniculatus (Bird’s Foot Trefoil)

The closed buds are red. · 6/8/2012 · Townsend Wildlife Management Area, Townsend, MA
≈ 3½ × 5" (9.6 × 13 cm)

Lotus corniculatus (Bird’s Foot Trefoil)

6/8/2012 · Townsend Wildlife Management Area, Townsend, MA
≈ 4½ × 3" (11 × 7.9 cm)

Lotus corniculatus (Bird’s Foot Trefoil)

6/5/2010 · Nashua River Rail Trail, Groton Center, Groton, MA
≈ 5 × 4½" (13 × 11 cm)

Lotus corniculatus (Bird’s Foot Trefoil)

8/27/2016 · Williams Barn and Sørhaug Woods, Groton, MA

Lotus corniculatus (Bird’s Foot Trefoil)

6/27/2016 · Nashua River Rail Trail, near Nashoba Hospital, Ayer, MA

Range:

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