Design By Nature -   

Species Datapage No 2a   

You may click on most photographs to enlarge.   *Denotes a Naturalised species


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Species Common Name:  Birdsfoot Trefoil
Species Botanical Name:  Lotus corniculatus


bft.jpg (50222 bytes)Creeping perennial, excellent on dry banks, in quarries, by the sea and in gardens as well as a great butterfly plant and a hardy species that flowers for a long time. It even grows on walls!

Trefoil comes in a great variety of growth habits.  Its ability to survive on a range of sites depends on management. 

Birdsfoot Trefoil grows well in quarries, where Rabbit and Hare browse it down so that most of the plant grows under the ground in a spreading root system. 

On gravely and sandy beeches it flowers early and profusely, watch out for sub species with far smaller leaves.    

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Trefoil fixes nitrogen on infertile sites.

An Ideal species for road verges

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In meadows Trefoil grows tall and flowers sparse until the sward is cut and its reverts to forming clumps, these clumps try to flower early in spring.  If you cut your meadow in spring don't worry about cutting the trefoil if its in full flower.  If its in seed, your too late to cut the meadow anyway, so leave it until summer.         

Management: Perennial, can be cut short, to flower regularly.
Tolerance of cuttingHigh, will re-grow and flower short if cut in spring / summer. 
Cutting time: Early spring, summer and late summer
Edible / Medicinal: Seed heads for decorations

Life Cycle (Form): Perennial

Flower Height: 10 - 80 cm depending on plant community and management

Foliage Height: 10 - 30

Flower Colour: Yellow with red tips

Flowering period: June to August

Time to Flower: 12 months

Soil Type: All, best on dry or moist soils

Ph Type: Neutral to Alkaline

Moisture: Any, except flooded

Aspect: Any except deep shade

Wildlife Value: Good to excellent, attracts Butterfly and bee

Note: An excellent pioneer, vital in most meadows


E.U. law: Being an agricultural species, It is illegal to sell native wild uncertified Birdsfoot Trefoil seeds. DBN however sells this species in both forms as a wild native and as an agricultural registered variety. If your project has strict nature conservation demands ask for the native only. (we can supply but have limited stocks)

see also Black Meddick on this page and Wetland species Greater Trefoil