Birds-foot Trefoil Lotus corniculatus
Table of Contents
|Aliases||Eggs, and bacon, granny’s toenails, lady’s slipper|
|Flowering Period||May – September|
|Soil type||Most types, free draining|
Bird’s-foot trefoil is a herbaceous, perennial plant that’s a member of the pea family and frequently found in grassland, meadows and pastures. It takes it’s name from the seed pods, which closely resemble a birds foot or claw.
This wildflower typically grows between 10 – 20 cm in height, but is cable of reaching 50 cm, when supported by neighbouring grassland. Bird’s-foot trefoil is a hardy wildflower that’s capable of surviving trampling, grazing and mowing.
Bird’s-foot trefoil is a nitrogen fixing plant, in that they contain nitrogen fixing bacteria. The nitrogen is extracted from the atmosphere and converted into a usable form.
A sprawling plant, almost hairless, sometimes hairy in rare instances with solid stems. They are not true trefoils as the leaves consist of five ‘clover like’ leaflets, not three.
The leaflets are ovate to lanceolate, with the three main leaflets located higher on the stalk, just above the two lower leaflets. Other clovers and trefoils such as white clover and lesser trefoil only have three leaflets.
The ‘pea like’ flower heads grow in small clusters that consist of 2 – 8 flowers, each made up of 5 petals, approximately 15mm long. They are yellow often with red streaks, hence the name ‘bacon and eggs’. Bird’s-foot trefoil between May and September, the flowers are then followed by the formation seed pods, which resemble a bird’s foot (see photo).
Value for wildlife
Bird’s-foot trefoil produces a valuable source of nectar that attracts both bumble bees and honey bees. It’s also a popular plant for various species of butterflies that visit foe its nectar.
It’s also a larval food plant for various insects including the common blue and green hairstreak butterflies, as well as numerous species of moths, including the six-spot burnet moth.
Uses for bird’s-foot trefoil
In agriculture bird’s-foot trefoil is used as a forage plant for livestock. It has the added advantage, in that it doesn’t cause bloat within the animals, that other forage plants are guilty of.
It also has medicinal properties that can be used as a sedative to treat sleep disorders, such as insomnia, depression, nervousness and anxiety.
Birds foot trefoil images
Click to enlarge
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