Northern Prairie Wildlife Research Center
Western Wetland Flora
Field Office Guide to Plant Species
Medicago lupulina L.
- Family: Pea (Leguminosae)
- Flowering: April-November
- Field Marks: This species is recognized by its trifoliolate leaves and its small heads of yellow flowers that drop their petals before the fruits are mature.
- Habitat: Old fields, pastures, roadsides, disturbed areas.
- Habit: Annual or less commonly a perennial herb with a taproot.
- Stems: Spreading, much branched from the base, up to 2 feet long, usually with some
degree of hairiness.
- Leaves: Alternate, trifoliolate, with conspicuous stipules at their base; leaflets obovate to nearly spherical, up to 3/4 inch long, rounded or slightly notched at the tip but usually with a small projection, with or without teeth, usually hairy
- Flowers: 10 or more in spherical heads, the heads ovoid to cylindric, up to 1/4 inch in diameter, on stalks up to 1 inch long.
- Sepals: 5, green, united below, hairy, 1/12-1/10 inch long.
- Petals: 5, yellow, 1/8-1/6 inch long, with the configuration of a sweetpea flower, falling away before the fruits mature.
- Stamens: 10.
- Pistils: Ovary superior, smooth.
- Fruits: Pods wider than tall, black, veiny, up to 1/6 inch long, 1-seeded; seed greenish brown to brown to black.
- Notes: This species is native of Europe but has spread to most parts of the United States. Some plants have glandular hairs on their leaves, stems, and pods. This species is an
important plant for grazing animals.
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