A close-up view of Bird’s Foot Trefoil found along
a country roadside near my home in northeast Iowa. USA
Bird’s-Foot Trefoil Lotus corniculatus L.
Common Names: birdfoot deervetch, bird’s-foot trefoil, bloomfell, cat’s clover, crowtoes, ground honeysuckle
Description: A perennial, fine-stemmed, leafy legume (pea family, Fabaceae) that grows 6-24 inches in height. Erect stems are nearly square, emerge from a single root crown and have many branches that can become tangled and matted. Clover-like leaves are pinnately compound, alternate, and consist of three oval leaflets and two smaller leaflet-like stipules that grow at the base of the leaf stalk. Flowers are bright yellow, sometimes streaked with red, ½ inch long, born in flat-topped clusters of three to six at the end of stems, and bloom from June to frost. Clusters of slender brown to black seed pods are cylindrical, resemble a bird’s foot, and contain 10-20 seeds that eject when mature. The deep, branched root system has a 3-foot long taproot and secondary roots from rhizomes. It reproduces by seed, rhizomes and above ground runners that form fibrous mats.
Habitat: It is located in roadsides, waste areas, fields, prairies, wildlife openings, and open disturbed areas. It tolerates a variety of soil types including dry, moist, hardpan or droughty soils.