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Narrow-leaved Bird's-foot Trefoil

Lotus tenuis

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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, Greater Bird's-foot Trefoil, 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 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:
30 centimetres tall
Gardens, grassland, meadows, roadsides, seaside, wasteland.

Yellow, 5 petals
The flowers are lemon yellow (2 to 4 per cluster, and sometimes solitary). It is similar looking to Common Bird's-foot Trefoil (Lotus corniculatus) but there are fewer flowers per cluster with Narrow-leaved Bird's-foot Trefoil. The flowers are also smaller. Narrow-leaved Bird's-foot Trefoil is much less common. The flowers measure about 6 to 12mm in diameter.
Narrow, oblong pea-like pods. Up to 3cm long.
A prostrate flower with trefoil leaves. The 3 leaflets are linear in shape and pointed. It is more slender, wirier and erect than the similar looking Common Bird's-foot Trefoil. It is also more branched and more tuft-forming.
Other Names:
Creeping Trefoil, Narrowleaf Trefoil, Prostrate Trefoil, Slender Trefoil.
Frequency (UK):
Occasionally seen  

Similar Species

Other Information


Lotus tenuis, also known as narrow-leaved bird's-foot trefoil, is a perennial herbaceous plant in the Fabaceae family. It is native to Europe and Asia, and is often found in grasslands, meadows, and along roadsides. It has a low-growing habit, with narrow leaves and produces small, yellow flowers with five petals in the spring and summer. The plant prefers well-drained soil and full sun, and it can tolerate a wide range of soil types. It is a nitrogen-fixing plant, which means it can improve soil fertility. It can be propagated by seed or division. It is a popular plant for wildflower gardens, meadows, and as a ground cover. It is also used as a forage crop for livestock and wildlife, and it's hardy to USDA Zone 3.


Narrow-leaved Birdsfoot Trefoil (Lotus tenuis) is a species of plant in the pea family that is native to Europe and Asia. This plant is known for its bright yellow flowers, which bloom from May to August, and its feathery, fern-like leaves. In this blog, we will take a closer look at the features, benefits, and cultivation of Narrow-leaved Birdsfoot Trefoil.

Features of Narrow-leaved Birdsfoot Trefoil

Narrow-leaved Birdsfoot Trefoil is a low-growing plant that typically reaches heights of 10-30 cm. The leaves are green, delicate and deeply divided, with a fern-like appearance. The flowers are bright yellow, and the plant produces seed pods that are covered in small hooks, which help the plant to spread by sticking to clothing and fur.

Benefits of Narrow-leaved Birdsfoot Trefoil

Narrow-leaved Birdsfoot Trefoil is an important plant for wildlife, providing food and habitat for a variety of species, including bumblebees, butterflies, and moths. The plant is also an important source of nectar for bees and other pollinators, making it a valuable addition to any garden or meadow.

In addition to its benefits for wildlife, Narrow-leaved Birdsfoot Trefoil is also an important plant for agriculture. It is often used as a cover crop or forage crop, due to its ability to fix nitrogen in the soil, and its ability to withstand heavy grazing by livestock. This makes it a valuable tool for maintaining soil health and fertility.

Cultivation of Narrow-leaved Birdsfoot Trefoil

Narrow-leaved Birdsfoot Trefoil is a hardy plant that is easy to grow in a variety of soils, including heavy clay and sandy soils. It prefers well-drained soil and full sun, but can tolerate partial shade. The plant can be propagated by seed, and can also be cut back to encourage new growth.

In conclusion, Narrow-leaved Birdsfoot Trefoil is a valuable plant for wildlife, agriculture, and horticulture. With its bright yellow flowers and feathery leaves, it is an attractive addition to any garden or meadow. Whether you are looking to support pollinators, improve soil health, or simply add some color to your landscape, Narrow-leaved Birdsfoot Trefoil is definitely worth considering.

More Information

In addition to its ornamental and ecological benefits, Narrow-leaved Birdsfoot Trefoil also has a rich history of use in traditional medicine. The plant has been used for centuries in various cultures to treat a range of ailments, including digestive problems, respiratory issues, and skin conditions.

Recent scientific studies have confirmed the medicinal properties of Narrow-leaved Birdsfoot Trefoil, and have shown that the plant contains a variety of compounds that have anti-inflammatory, antibacterial, and antioxidant effects. For example, research has shown that the plant contains flavonoids and tannins that have strong antioxidant properties, making it useful for protecting against cellular damage caused by free radicals.

If you are interested in incorporating Narrow-leaved Birdsfoot Trefoil into your garden, it is important to be aware of its potential invasiveness. While the plant is not considered to be highly invasive in its native range, it can spread quickly in other parts of the world, especially if conditions are favorable. To minimize the risk of invasiveness, it is important to choose a site that is well-drained and sunny, and to monitor the growth of the plant regularly.

Narrow-leaved Birdsfoot Trefoil is a versatile and valuable plant that offers a range of benefits for wildlife, agriculture, and human health. With its bright yellow flowers, delicate foliage, and rich history of use in traditional medicine, it is a must-have for any nature lover or gardener.

Another important aspect to consider when growing Narrow-leaved Birdsfoot Trefoil is its ability to thrive in areas with low soil fertility. This makes it an ideal choice for restoration projects, as well as for improving soil quality in agricultural fields. In fact, Narrow-leaved Birdsfoot Trefoil is commonly used in agroforestry systems as a nitrogen-fixing cover crop, helping to improve soil fertility and promote sustainable agriculture.

Narrow-leaved Birdsfoot Trefoil is also a valuable plant for erosion control, due to its deep roots and ability to bind soil. This makes it a great choice for planting on slopes and other areas prone to erosion. Additionally, the plant's tough and hardy nature makes it well-suited for planting in areas with poor soils, such as road verges and disturbed sites.

When it comes to maintenance, Narrow-leaved Birdsfoot Trefoil is a low-maintenance plant that requires little attention once established. In fact, too much attention can actually be harmful, as the plant is sensitive to disturbance. It is important to allow the plant to grow undisturbed, in order to promote healthy growth and maximize its benefits for wildlife and the environment.

In conclusion, Narrow-leaved Birdsfoot Trefoil is a valuable and versatile plant that offers a range of benefits for wildlife, agriculture, and human health. Whether you are looking to improve soil quality, control erosion, or simply enjoy its bright yellow flowers, Narrow-leaved Birdsfoot Trefoil is definitely worth considering.

Distribution Map

Reproduced by kind permission of the BSBI.

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