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Bird's Foot Trefoil, Birdfoot Deervetch, Bloomfell, Cat's Clover, Crowtoes, Ground Honeysuckle - Lotus corniculatus


Family: Fabaceae - Pea family Genus Common Name: Trefoil Native Status: IntroducedDicot Perennial Herb
Lotus corniculatus - Bird's Foot Trefoil, Birdfoot Deervetch, Bloomfell, Cat's Clover, Crowtoes, Ground Honeysuckle. This is not the Lotus of Lotus Blossom fame (those are in the Nelumbo genus.) Lotus is instead a large genus of over 100 species in the Pea Family. My research implies a few members of this genus are found in the United States with only one being native - L. parviflorus, found in Oregon and Washington, as well as British Columbia in Canada. Most species found in the United States that have been considered Lotus are instead now classified in Acmispon or Hosackia.

Lotus corniculatus - Bird's Foot Trefoil - is the most widely distributed species of the genus in the United States, found in all but 7 states, and in all of the southern tier of Canadian provinces as well as Yukon Territory. A native of Europe and Asia, it was introduced into North America for livestock forage and to control wind and water erosion. It is a low-growing, usually decumbent perennial found in a variety of environments, probably most commonly seen in grassy areas where when in bloom provides a lovely carpet of golden yellow blossoms.

Found in:
AL, AR, AZ, CA, CO, CT, DC, DE, GA, HI, IA, ID, IL, IN, KS, KY, MA, MD, ME, MI, MN, MO, MT, NC, ND, NE, NH, NJ, NM, NY, OH, OK, OR, PA, RI, SD, TN, TX, UT, VA, VT, WA, WI, WV, WY
Lotus corniculatus

Distribution of Lotus corniculatus in the United States and Canada:
USDA Plants Distribution Map temporarily unavailable.
Blue=Native; Grey=Introduced

Map from USDA Plants Database:
USDA, NRCS. 2017. The PLANTS Database (http://plants.usda.gov, 15 Dec 2017). National Plant Data Team, Greensboro, NC 27401-4901 USA.

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Site: Meldrum Bay, Manitoulin Island, Ontario, Canada Date: 2015-August-10Photographer: Gerald C. Williamson
Nikon D7000
Tamron SP 90MM f/2.8 AF Macro
There are several varieties of Lotus corniculatus, but only one, var. corniculatus, is confirmed as established in the United States. The pea-like flowers are yellow and may have orange-red parts or stripes. The umbels have 3 to 7 flowers each.
Lotus corniculatus

Site: Meldrum Bay, Manitoulin Island, Ontario, Canada Date: 2015-August-10Photographer: Gerald C Williamson
Nikon D7000
In spite of the 'trefoil' common name, the leaves of Lotus corniculatus and most other Lotus species have 5 leaflets. The leaves are crowded together, and 3 of the leaflets are crowded at the end of the leaf rachis, making the other two leaflets rather obscure, clearly visible here only as the two stipule-like leaflets in the tiny leaf just above center of the photo. While the plant is more frequently seen as decumbent in open (frequently in cultivated) grassy areas, it may also be erect, growing up to about 24 inches high.
Click on the photo for a larger image
Lotus corniculatus

Site: Meldrum Bay, Manitoulin Island, Ontario, Canada Date: 2015-August-09Photographer: Gerald C Williamson
Nikon D7000
Bird's Foot Trefoil colonies can be large and densely populated, making for beautiful golden yellow carpets. They can be weedy and invasive. These lovely mats are formed at the expense of other vegetation, choking out native plants. Since they are low-growing, mowing short enough to eventually kill the plants (make take several years) will also have an impact on other plants in the mow area.
Click on the photo for a larger image
Lotus corniculatus

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All content except USDA Plants Database map Copyright Gerald C. Williamson 2017
Photographs Copyright owned by the named photographer