Common bird’s-foot trefoil

A low native perennial with yellow flowers. The common bird’s-foot trefoil is a legume plant that improves soil structure and stabilizes steep slopes. Its flowers are rich in nectar and pollen. Wild, non-cultivar seeds.

SKU: N011

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About the species

Polish name: common trefoil, horn-shaped trefoil

Latin name: Lotus corniculatus

Family: legumes Fabaceae

Status in Poland: native and cultivated

perennial plant
Flower color:
about 20-30 cm


A low to medium vigorously expanding perennial plant with strong taproots, five-leaflet leaves and golden inflorescences.

It develops branched, creeping or erect aboveground shoots, full inside, with a characteristic angular cross-section.

The leaves are pinnate, composed of five elliptical oblong leaflets, two of which, arranged very close to the shoot, are usually taken as stipules. The distinguishing feature of the bird’s-foot trefoil is that the leaves roll up at night.

It forms flowers typical of the legume family, i.e. pectinate, with a five-sepaled calyx and a corolla with five petals, the lower two of which are transformed into the so-called a keel, two side ones in the so-called wings, while the upper one becomes the so-called banner. Single golden flowers of the common bird’s-foot trefoill are gathered in loose heads, set on long stalks, with small green prophyllums.

The fruit will be a pod with a characteristic horn at the end (hence the polish name horn-shaped). It only contains a few seeds. When ripe it sharply bursts in half, and both halves twist launching seeds.

Additional information


It grows very well in poorly structured and poorly cultivated soils, compact or lighter, on compact subsoil.

Copes best in sandy-loam, neutral or alkaline soils, rich in calcium.. On the other hand, it wastes away in waterlogged and long-time flooded meadows.

Interesting facts

Common bird’s-foot trefoil is a species liked by farmers because it improves the structure of soils, especially those too compacted, developed on a compact parent rock, or vice versa: too light, damaged by earlier inefficient or too intensive cultivation. It is a great forage species, perfect for grazing and mowing, for centuries it has been used in agricultural mixtures with clovers and alfalfas.

The extensive root system allows the common bird’s-foot trefoil to consolidate steep slopes, as it prevents their erosion.

Common bird’s-foot trefoil in seed mixtures:

Use Value

Common bird’s-foot trefoil is highly valued for its double flowering: in May-June and in August-September. Like other legumes, it provides both pollen and nectar to honeybees, so it is eagerly visited. The nectar yield of 1 ha reaches 20-40 kg, and the pollen yield reaches 20-45 kg.

The common bird’s-foot trefoil as a plant “forces” bumblebees and bees to cross-pollinate by maturing the stamens earlier than the pistils, and a peculiar “obstacle course” for pollinators: when an insect, reaching for nectar, slides its head in underneath the banner, the anthers push the sticky pollen out of the bow of the keel, so that sticks to the sternum of the insect. When the same bee or bumblebee visits the next flowers of the common bird’s-foot trefoil, the stigma of the pistil is more mature, it protrudes from the bow of the keel, so it allows to be pollinated and then produce seeds.

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