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Greater Bird's-foot Trefoil

Lotus pedunculatus

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Plant Profile

Flowering Months:
Fabaceae (Pea)
Also in this family:
Alpine Milk-vetch, Alsike Clover, Birdsfoot, Birdsfoot Clover, Bird's-foot Trefoil, Bithynian Vetch, Bitter Vetch, Black Broom, Black Medick, Bladder Senna, Broad Bean, Broad-leaved Everlasting Pea, Bur Medick, Burrowing Clover, Bush Vetch, Clustered Clover, Common Broom, Common Gorse, Common Laburnum, Common Restharrow, Common Vetch, Crimson Clover, Crown Vetch, Dragon's Teeth, Dwarf Gorse, Dyer's Greenweed, False Acacia, Fine-leaved Vetch, Fodder Vetch, Garden Lupin, Garden Pea, Goat's Rue, Grass Vetchling, Hairy Bird's-foot Trefoil, Hairy Greenweed, Hairy Tare, Hairy Vetchling, Hairy-fruited Broom, Haresfoot Clover, Hop Trefoil, Horseshoe Vetch, Hungarian Vetch, Kidney Vetch, Knotted Clover, Large Trefoil, Lesser Trefoil, Lucerne, Marsh Pea, Meadow Vetchling, Narrow-leaved Bird's-foot Trefoil, Narrow-leaved Everlasting Pea, Narrow-leaved Vetch, Nootka Lupin, Norfolk Everlasting Pea, Orange Birdsfoot, Petty Whin, Purple Milk-vetch, Purple Oxytropis, Red Clover, Reversed Clover, Ribbed Melilot, Rough Clover, Russell Lupin, Sainfoin, Scorpion Senna, Scottish Laburnum, Sea Clover, Sea Pea, Sickle Medick, Slender Bird's-foot Trefoil, Slender Tare, Slender Trefoil, Small Melilot, Small Restharrow, Smooth Tare, Spanish Broom, Spanish Gorse, Spiny Restharrow, Spotted Medick, Spring Vetch, Strawberry Clover, Suffocated Clover, Sulphur Clover, Tall Melilot, Toothed Medick, Tree Lupin, Tuberous Pea, Tufted Vetch, Twin-headed Clover, Two-flowered Everlasting Pea, Upright Clover, Upright Vetch, Western Clover, Western Gorse, White Broom, White Clover, White Lupin, White Melilot, Wild Liquorice, Wood Vetch, Yellow Oxytropis, Yellow Vetch, Yellow Vetchling, Zigzag Clover
Life Cycle:
Maximum Size:
1 metre tall
Ditches, floodplains, grassland, marshes, meadows, riverbanks, riversides, roadsides, waterside, wetland, woodland.

Yellow, 5 petals
Similar to Common Bird's-foot Trefoil (Lotus corniculatus) but is shorter and its dull yellow flowers appear in clusters of 5 to 12. Common Bird's-foot Trefoil flowers appear in clusters of 2 to 7 and are sometimes tinted with orange or red (hence its common nickname of 'Eggs and Bacon'), unlike Greater Bird's-foot Trefoil which is always pure yellow. Its golden yellow flowers appear on top of erect stalks which measure up to 15cm long.
Named for the appearance of its seedpods, Common Bird's-foot Trefoil has pods which look like the 5 toes of a bird's foot. The Greater Bird's-foot Trefoil has many more toes (5 to 12) so looks a little less like a bird's foot.
Bluish-green pinnate leaves with 5 leaflets. Greater Bird's-foot Trefoil has hollow stems, unlike Common Bird's-foot Trefoil which also has lighter coloured foliage. The leaves can be hairy or not hairy. Perennial.
The Greater Bird's-foot Trefoil does not have a distinctive or commonly recognized edible smell. While the plant is not typically cultivated for culinary use, it is important to note that individual perceptions of smell can vary. The plant is more known for its visual appeal and ecological contributions rather than its fragrance in the context of edibility. Always exercise caution and follow expert guidance when considering the consumption of wild plants.
Other Names:
Big Trefoil, Large Birdsfoot Trefoil, Marsh Bird's-foot Trefoil.
Frequency (UK):

Similar Species

Other Information


Lotus pedunculatus, also known as greater bird's-foot trefoil, is a perennial herb in the pea family (Fabaceae) native to Europe and Asia. It is commonly found in grasslands, pastures, and along roadsides. The plant has small, yellow flowers and distinctive seed pods that resemble a bird's foot. It is often used as a forage crop for livestock and as a cover crop for soil conservation, it is also known for its ability to fix nitrogen in the soil. It is also a popular forage for honey bees and other pollinators. It is more persistent, taller and has a better yield than the L.corniculatus.


Greater Bird's-foot Trefoil: A Stunning Wildflower

If you're a fan of wildflowers and looking for a plant with an eye-catching appearance, look no further than the Greater Bird's-foot Trefoil (Lotus pedunculatus). This beautiful and versatile plant is commonly found throughout Europe, Asia, and North Africa and is a popular choice for use in meadows, pastures, and roadside verges.

The Greater Bird's-foot Trefoil is a member of the pea family and is known for its distinctive flowers. The blooms are bright yellow and arranged in clusters, making them a striking addition to any landscape. The plant gets its name from the shape of its seed pods, which resemble a bird's foot.

In addition to its good looks, the Greater Bird's-foot Trefoil is also an important plant for wildlife. It is a favored food source for many species of birds and butterflies, and its nectar attracts bees and other beneficial insects. This makes it an excellent choice for gardens and landscapes that support wildlife and biodiversity.

The plant is also highly adaptable and easy to grow. It prefers well-drained soils and full sun, but it can also tolerate partial shade and some drought. It is a hardy plant and is resistant to most pests and diseases, making it an ideal choice for those looking for a low-maintenance option.

One of the best things about the Greater Bird's-foot Trefoil is its versatility. It can be grown as a stand-alone plant, used as a groundcover, or incorporated into a mixed wildflower meadow. It is also a popular choice for use in green roofs and as a component of erosion control plantings.

The Greater Bird's-foot Trefoil is a stunning and versatile wildflower that is sure to bring beauty and life to any garden or landscape. Whether you're looking for a low-maintenance option, a plant that supports wildlife, or simply a plant with eye-catching flowers, this plant is definitely worth considering.

In addition to its ornamental and ecological value, the Greater Bird's-foot Trefoil also has a number of other uses. It is commonly used for forage in livestock pastures and is considered a valuable forage crop for grazing animals such as cattle, sheep, and horses. The plant is high in protein and is particularly valuable for livestock during the summer months, when other forage options may be in short supply.

Another benefit of the Greater Bird's-foot Trefoil is its ability to fix nitrogen in the soil. This is a result of its symbiotic relationship with nitrogen-fixing bacteria that live in nodules on the plant's roots. By fixing nitrogen, the plant helps to improve soil fertility and can make it easier to grow other plants in the area.

The Greater Bird's-foot Trefoil is also valued for its ability to stabilize soil and prevent erosion. Its deep roots and dense growth habit help to anchor the soil and prevent it from being washed away during heavy rain. This makes it an ideal choice for use in areas prone to erosion or for stabilizing slopes and embankments.

The Greater Bird's-foot Trefoil is a multi-faceted plant that offers a wide range of benefits to gardeners, landowners, and wildlife enthusiasts.

It's also worth mentioning that the Greater Bird's-foot Trefoil has a long history of use in traditional medicine. In some cultures, the plant was used to treat a variety of ailments, including digestive problems, skin conditions, and respiratory problems. It was also used as a diuretic and to promote the flow of breast milk in nursing mothers.

While its medicinal properties have not been extensively studied, some preliminary research suggests that the plant may have anti-inflammatory and antibacterial properties. More research is needed to fully understand the potential health benefits of the Greater Bird's-foot Trefoil, but its history of use in traditional medicine is certainly worth noting.

Finally, it's worth mentioning that the Greater Bird's-foot Trefoil is a beautiful and unique plant that is sure to add a touch of interest to any garden or landscape. Its bright yellow flowers, distinctive seed pods, and attractive foliage make it a standout choice for wildflower gardens, meadows, and naturalized areas.

It's also worth mentioning that the Greater Bird's-foot Trefoil is a relatively low-maintenance plant that is easy to grow and care for. Once established, it requires little in the way of watering, fertilizing, or pruning, making it a great choice for busy gardeners or those who prefer low-maintenance landscapes.

The plant can be propagated by seed, division, or cuttings, making it easy to grow from scratch or to expand an existing planting. When grown from seed, the Greater Bird's-foot Trefoil will typically bloom in the second year and will continue to bloom for several years after that.

In terms of potential drawbacks, the Greater Bird's-foot Trefoil can become invasive in some areas. This is because it is capable of spreading rapidly via its seeds, which can be dispersed by wind or water. If you are planting the Greater Bird's-foot Trefoil in an area where you are concerned about its invasiveness, it is a good idea to deadhead the flowers before they go to seed.

Another potential drawback of the Greater Bird's-foot Trefoil is its tendency to become leggy and unattractive if not regularly trimmed or mowed. This can be easily remedied by cutting back the plant after it has finished blooming.

In conclusion, the Greater Bird's-foot Trefoil is a low-maintenance and easy-to-grow plant that is sure to add beauty and interest to any garden or landscape. While it can become invasive in some areas, this can be easily managed by deadheading the flowers or cutting back the plant.

30 Greater Bird's-foot Trefoil Facts

  1. Scientific Name: Greater Bird's-foot Trefoil is scientifically known as Lotus pedunculatus.

  2. Habitat: It is commonly found in damp grasslands, marshes, and wet meadows.

  3. Appearance: The plant features clusters of bright yellow flowers with distinctive bird's-foot-shaped seed pods.

  4. Blooming Period: Greater Bird's-foot Trefoil typically blooms from late spring to early autumn.

  5. Height: It can grow up to 30-60 centimeters in height.

  6. Leaf Structure: The leaves are compound, with small leaflets arranged in groups of three.

  7. Soil Preference: This plant thrives in moist to wet soils and is often found near water sources.

  8. Attracts Pollinators: The vibrant flowers attract pollinators like bees and butterflies.

  9. Perennial Nature: Greater Bird's-foot Trefoil is a perennial plant, meaning it can live for several years.

  10. Root System: It has a fibrous root system that helps stabilize the plant in wet conditions.

  11. Adaptability: Known for its adaptability, this plant can tolerate a range of soil types.

  12. Geographic Distribution: It is native to Europe and Asia but has been introduced to other regions.

  13. Ecological Importance: It contributes to biodiversity by providing habitat and food for various insects.

  14. Forage Value: Greater Bird's-foot Trefoil is often used as forage for livestock due to its nutritional value.

  15. Nitrogen Fixation: Like other legumes, it has the ability to fix nitrogen in the soil.

  16. Cultural Uses: In some traditional herbal practices, the plant has been used for medicinal purposes.

  17. Landscaping: It is sometimes used in landscaping for its ornamental value.

  18. Drought Tolerance: While it prefers moist conditions, it can withstand short periods of drought.

  19. Seed Dispersal: The unique bird's-foot-shaped seed pods aid in efficient seed dispersal.

  20. Conservation: It is considered a valuable species for conservation efforts, especially in wetland restoration projects.

  21. Growth Habit: Greater Bird's-foot Trefoil has a sprawling growth habit, forming dense mats of vegetation.

  22. Companion Plant: It is often planted in mixtures with other grasses and legumes for pasture improvement.

  23. Rhizomes: Some varieties have rhizomes, underground stems that help the plant spread.

  24. Seed Viability: Seeds can remain viable in the soil for several years, contributing to the plant's persistence.

  25. Wildlife Food Source: Apart from pollinators, the seeds serve as a food source for various bird species.

  26. Agricultural Benefits: Its nitrogen-fixing ability enhances soil fertility, benefiting neighboring plants.

  27. Invasive Potential: While valuable, in some regions, it may exhibit invasive tendencies.

  28. Gardening Challenges: In cultivation, it may require specific conditions to thrive, such as consistent moisture.

  29. Folklore: In some cultures, the plant is associated with symbolism and folklore.

  30. Research Interest: Ongoing research explores the potential of Greater Bird's-foot Trefoil in sustainable agriculture and environmental conservation.


Greater Bird's-foot Trefoil filmed in Rivington, Lancashire on the 11th June 2023.


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Distribution Map

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