Thursday, June 25, 2015

Bird's-Foot Trefoil - Lotus corniculatus - Pied de poule

Today, I continue in my recent theme of posting about Fabaceae (legumes) introduced to North America as forage plants (see: Galega orientalis (fodder galega)Medicago sativa (alfalfa)Trifolium pratense (red clover). This time, I'm going to talk about Lotus corniculatus (bird's-foot trefoil).

Lotus corniculatus inflorescence
This species is native to Europe, Asia, and Africa [1], and has been introduced to most of North America (US range map here, Canada range map here), primarily as fodder (livestock animal feed). It is a member of the family Fabaceae (legumes) and, like most members of this family, is both a good feed plant and a nitrogen-fixing plant [1,2,3] (nitrogen fixing: removes nitrogen from the atmosphere and puts it into the soil). This plant can become invasive and choke out native plants in some places, especially grasslands [1,2,4].

Dense patch of Lotus corniculatus
Unlike many Fabaceae used for fodder (including Medicago sativa and Galega orientalis), Lotus corniculatus doesn't cause bloat in cattle and so is a desirable fodder crop [1,2].

Lotus conriculatus inflorescence
This plant reproduces primarily through its roots [1], can occasionally self-pollinate [5], but is mostly pollinated by large bees [5], which must be strong enough to pull apart the flowers to access pollen and nectar [5]. Lotus corniculatus produces large amounts of nectar and so is a desirable honey crop [5].

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