Bird's-foot Trefoil - Lotus corniculatus

Family: Fabaceae- (Pea family)

"Lotus corniculatus is a PERENNIAL growing to 0.3 m (1ft) by 0.5 m (1ft 8in) at a medium rate.
It is hardy to zone (UK) 5. It is in flower from Jun to September, and the seeds ripen from Aug to October. The flowers are hermaphrodite (have both male and female organs) and are pollinated by Bees.The plant is self-fertile.
It can fix Nitrogen.
It is noted for attracting wildlife.[PFAF]
Suitable for: light (sandy), medium (loamy) and heavy (clay) soils, prefers well-drained soil and can grow in nutritionally poor soil. Suitable pH: acid, neutral and basic (alkaline) soils. It cannot grow in the shade. It prefers dry or moist soil. The plant can tolerate maritime exposure."[PFAF]

USDA Flower Colour: Yellow
USDA Blooming Period: Early Spring
USDA Fruit/Seed characteristics:

Colour: Brown
Present from Spring to Summer [USDA-E-flora]


Edible Uses

Other Uses

Medicinal Uses

This product comes from Kansu and Northern Szechuan, is said to resemble lucerne has a yellow flower, a root like that of Polygala japonica,, which is gathered in the second and eighth moons and dried in the sun. Its action is carminative, thirst-relieving, antifebrile, restorative, and tonic. It is administered in tinctures, decoction, pill, or powder. [ChineseMM]


Another ancient wound herb like Anthyllis vulneraria, Lotus corniculatus also features hardly at all in the folk records despite its prevalence as a plant of the British Isles. That the only record of use—as an eyewash—comes from South Uist in the Outer Hebrides,[3] however, makes it a more convincing candidate for genuine folk status.[MPFT]






Even within AM or EM associations, different mycorrhizal species can vary in their effects on herbivore performance. Goverde et al. (2000) studied the effect of varying species of AM fungus on the performance of the common blue butterfly (Polyommatus icarus) feeding on Lotus corniculatus. Plants were inoculated with two species of AM fungi, alone and in combination, and the performance of butterfly larvae that were fed leaves from these plants was assessed relative to nonmycorrhizal plants. Larval survival increased (1.6- to 3.B-fold) and larval weights significantly increased when fed mycorrhizal plants relative to controls regardless of the species of fungus. However, larval food consumption, larval food use and adult lipid concentrations varied significantly with the species of mycorrhizal fungus used as inoculum. Adult lipid concentrations were 15 % higher when larvae were fed plants inoculated only with AM species #1 than when they were inoculated with a mix of AM species #1 and #2. This difference is potentially important because high lipid concentrations are associated with improved fecundity and longevity in butterflies (Goverde et al. 2000).[Heijden ME]


"Pre-soak the seed for 24 hours in warm water and then sow in the spring or autumn in situ. The seed usually germinates in 2 - 4 weeks at 15°c. If seed is in short supply, it can be sown in pots in a cold frame. When they are large enough to handle, prick the seedlings out into individual pots and plant them out in late spring or early summer."[PFAF]


"Requires a well-drained soil in a sunny position[200]. Dislikes shade[200]. Does well on poor soils[61]. An important food plant for many caterpillars[30]. It is also a good bee plant[74], the flowers providing an important source of nectar[240]. The flowers are powerfully scented, even though they are able to pollinate themselves[245]. The plant spreads very freely at the roots[1]. This species has a symbiotic relationship with certain soil bacteria, these bacteria form nodules on the roots and fix atmospheric nitrogen. Some of this nitrogen is utilized by the growing plant but some can also be used by other plants growing nearby[200]."[PFAF]

Green Manure: "A useful green manure plant, fixing atmospheric nitrogen[7]. It is difficult to see this plant as a useful green manure, it is fairly slow growing with us and does not produce much bulk[K]." [PFAF]



  1. [E-flora] Accessed Feb 28, 2015
  2. [EMNMPV.7] - Edible, Medicinal and non-medicinal Plants Volume 7
  3. [PFAF] Accessed Feb 28, 2015
  4. [Seigler,1975]Plants of the Northeastern United States that Produce Cyanogenic Compounds, DAVID S. SEIGLER ECONOMIC BOTANY 30,August 18. 1975

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