Lotus corniculatus, Birdsfoot Trefoil

Gardens & Landscapes, Invasive Species, Extension Master Gardener December 16, 2015 Print Friendly and PDF

Invasive Species: Lotus corniculatus, Birdsfoot Trefoil

Birdsfoot trefoil is an invasive low-growing, perennial forb with stems that can reach 2 ft. (0.6 m) long. Leaves are compound (with five oval to linear leaflets), stipulate, and alternate. Leaflets (upper three) are 0.5 in. (1.3 cm) long and less than 1/8 in. (0.3 cm) wide; the lower two resemble leaf-like stipules. Flowering occurs from May to August, when yellow, sweet pea-like flowers develop. Flowers develop in clusters of two to eight on a long peduncle (stalk). Fruits are pods that occur in head-like clusters. Each pod is brown to black, cylindrical, 0.6 to 1.4 in. (1.5 to 3.5 cm) long, contains up to 49 seeds, and has a persistent style at the apex. Birdsfoot trefoil is native to Eurasia and North Africa and occurs in pastures, roadsides, wetlands, disturbed grasslands, and riparian areas.

What are invasive species and why should we be concerned about them? 


Taxonomy: Scientific and Common Names for This Species

Fabales > Fabaceae > Lotus corniculatus L.

Synonym(s): birdfoot deervetch

Lotus corniculatus - USDA PLANTS Profile

Distribution Maps

Birdsfoot trefoil - The reported distribution of this invasive species across the United States (Source: Invasive Plant Atlas of the United States)

Up-to-the-minute distribution maps and why they are important 

Reporting This Invasive Species

What is the best way and place to report the occurrence of an invasive species? 

 How to report an invasive species sighting to EDDMapS - Early Detection & Distribution Mapping System

EDDMapS - Report an invasive species to EDDMapS.

Cooperative Extension Offices - Find your local Cooperative Extension office on this map provided by USDA.

How to Identify

This invasive species can be identified by looking for the characteristics described in the paragraphs that follow.

Plant

Birdsfoot trefoil is a low-growing, perennial forb with stems that can reach 2 ft. (0.6 m) long.

birdsfoot trefoil birdsfoot trefoil


Chris Evans, University of Illinois,
bugwood.org

John M. Randall, The Nature Conservancy, bugwood.org

Foliage

Leaves are compound (with five oval to linear leaflets), stipulate, and alternate. Leaflets (upper three) are 0.5 in. (1.3 cm) long and less than 1/8 in. (0.3 cm) wide; the lower two resemble leaf-like stipules.

birdsfoot trefoil birdsfoot trefoil
Ohio State Weed Lab Archive, Ohio State University, bugwood.org Mary Ellen (Mel) Harte, bugwood.org

Flower

Flowering occurs from May to August, when yellow, sweet pea-like flowers develop. Flowers develop in clusters of two to eight on a long peduncle (stalk).

birdsfoot trefoil birdsfoot trefoil
Chris Evans, River to River CWMA, bugwood.org David Cappaert, Michigan State University, bugwood.org

Fruit

Fruits are pods that occur in head-like clusters. Each pod is brown to black, cylindrical, 0.6 to 1.4 in. (1.5 to 3.5 cm) long, contains up to 49 seeds, and has a persistent style at the apex.

birdsfoot trefoil birdsfoot trefoil


Bruce Ackley, The Ohio State University,
bugwood.org

Ken Chamberlain, Ohio State University, bugwood.org

Native Species That Can Resemble Birdsfoot Trefoil

- Images at invasive.org

   
bugwood.org bugwood.org

- Images at invasive.org

   
bugwood.org bugwood.org

Additional Images for Birdsfoot Trefoil

Birdsfoot trefoil - Images at Invasive.org

Additional Information, Biology, Control and Management Resources

Control and management recommendations vary according to individual circumstances. Location, habitat, weather, and a variety of other conditions are factors that help determine the best treatment choice. To find the safest and most effective treatment for your situation, consult your state's land-grant institution. If you will use chemicals as part of the control process, always refer to the product label.

United States Land-Grant University System - Find your land-grant university's college of agriculture, Cooperative Extension office, or other related partner on this map provided by USDA.

Weed of the Week - USDA Forest Service

Global Invasive Species Database - Invasive Species Specialist Group (ISSG)

Terrestrial invasive species - Minnesota Department of Natural Resources

Alaska Natural Heritage Program - University of Alaska Anchorage

Robert W. Freckmann Herbarium - University of Wisconsin - Stevens Point

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This work is supported by the USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture, New Technologies for Ag Extension project.