Lotus corniculatus (Birdsfoot trefoil)

Perennial nitrogen-fixing legume with a branching taproot and bright yellow clustered flowers. Potentially long-lived in northern regions; cold hardy. Tolerant of marginal ground, including shallow soils with low fertility, low pH, and poor drainage, as well as heaving soils unsuited to Alfalfa (Medicago sativa). Less forage yield than alfalfa in well-drained, fertile soils. Non-bloating and fine stemmed, excellent for hay, grazing pasture and wildlife habitat. Superior forage quality to alfalfa. Low seedling vigor; mix with non-aggressive perennial grasses to improve forage yield and prevent lodging. Intolerant of summer overgrazing. Avoid fall grazing to improve winter survival and spring growth. Readily reseeds itself. Grow to maturity every third year to allow seed-set and maintain the stand. Pollen and nectar used by honeybees and bumble bees. Varieties listed below.


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Family: Fabaceae

Duration: Perennial

Growth Habit: Forb

Native Status: Introduced

Growth Form:

Mature Height:  24-36 in.

Bloom Color: Yellow

Bloom Period:

Annual Precipitation:  in.

Drought Tolerance:

Shade Tolerance:

Fire Resistance:

Fire Tolerance:

Nitrogen fixation:

Bloat: Non-bloat


Coarse Texture:

Medium Texture:

Fine Texture:

Salinity Tolerance:

CaCO3 Tolerance:

pH Range:


Seeds per Pound: 375,000

Seeding Rate: lbs/acre


Days to Germination:


Bruce - Semi-erect type suited for hay or grazing. Developed for plant vigor, winter hardiness and regrowth after grazing. Superior spring yields. Forage yields higher than Leo. (Released 2007)

Leo - Semi-erect to erect grazing type. Long-lived, late maturing. Forage yields as good as Viking. Slightly more winter hardy than Norcen. Matures slightly earlier than Empire. (Released 1963)

Norcen - Semi-erect type suited for hay or grazing. Late maturing. Superb forage yield. Faster regrowth rate than Empire and easier to establish; slower regrowth rate than Viking. (Released 1981)

Viking - Erect hay type. Earliest maturing of all varieties. Rapid spring growth of vigorous seedlings. Good forage yields. Faster growth than Norcen. (Released 1930’s)