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Black Medick

Medicago lupulina

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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, 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 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:
Annual or Perennial
Maximum Size:
30 centimetres tall
Fields, gardens, grassland, lawns, roadsides, wasteland.

Yellow, 4 petals
Bright yellow and up to 50 flowers per compact flowerhead. 4 downy sepals and 4 petals. Similar looking flower as Lesser Trefoil.
Small, flat and hairy, black kidney-shaped pea pods, up to 3mm across.
Trifoliate leaves, clover-like in appearance, with a black dot in the centre of each leaflet. Similar looking to Lesser Trefoil except the tips of the leaflets are subtly different in shape. With Black Medick the tips of the leaflets protrude slightly, being a little bit pointed. Lesser Trefoil leaflets have a slight indentation so they are ever so slightly more heart-shaped but it's not always easy to tell them apart so careful observation of multiple leaflets is often necessary for correct identification.
Other Names:
Black Clover, Black Grass, Black Hay, Black Meddick, Black Medic, Black Medic Clover, Black Nonesuch, Blackseed, Hop Clover, Hop Medic, Lupuline, Melilot Trefoil, Nonesuch, Yellow Clover, Yellow Trefoil.
Frequency (UK):

Similar Species

Other Information


Medicago lupulina, also known as black medic or hop clover, is a perennial legume in the Fabaceae family. It is native to Europe and Asia and naturalized in many parts of North America. It typically grows to a height of 20-30 cm and has small, yellow flowers that bloom in the summer. The leaves are trifoliate and the plant has a low-growing, spreading habit. It prefers moist, well-drained soils and full sun to partial shade. It is often considered a weed, as it can be invasive and it is known to be a common problem in lawns, gardens, and agricultural areas. It can be controlled by using herbicides or by physically removing the plants.


Black Medick, also known as Medicago lupulina, is a member of the legume family and is commonly found in temperate regions throughout the world. This herbaceous plant is an annual or biennial and can grow up to 30 cm tall.

The leaves of Black Medick are composed of three leaflets, which are obovate in shape with toothed margins. The flowers are small and yellow, arranged in dense spikes that emerge from the stem. The fruit of this plant is a coiled pod that splits open when mature, releasing the small, brown seeds.

Black Medick is a popular forage plant due to its high nutritional content, and it is often included in grass mixtures for livestock grazing. It is also commonly used as a green manure crop, as it fixes nitrogen in the soil and improves soil health.

This plant has a long history of medicinal use, particularly in traditional herbal medicine. It has been used to treat a variety of ailments, including coughs, fevers, and digestive problems. It is believed to have anti-inflammatory and diuretic properties and has been used as a mild sedative.

Black Medick has also been studied for its potential health benefits, particularly in relation to its antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties. It contains a number of beneficial compounds, including flavonoids and saponins, which have been shown to have antioxidant and anti-inflammatory effects.

In addition to its nutritional and medicinal properties, Black Medick also has ecological importance. As a member of the legume family, it is able to form symbiotic relationships with nitrogen-fixing bacteria, which can improve soil fertility and reduce the need for synthetic fertilizers.

Black Medick is also used in traditional Chinese medicine, where it is known as Huang Qin. It is believed to have a cooling effect on the body and is often used to treat inflammation, fever, and respiratory infections.

In addition to its medicinal uses, Black Medick has also been used in the culinary arts. The young leaves and shoots can be eaten raw or cooked and have a mild, slightly sweet flavor. The seeds have also been used as a substitute for coffee.

Black Medick is a hardy plant that can tolerate a range of soil types and conditions, making it an ideal crop for farmers and gardeners looking to improve soil health and fertility. It is also a great addition to any garden or landscape, providing a splash of yellow color and attracting beneficial insects and pollinators.

In terms of cultivation, Black Medick can be sown in the spring or fall and can be grown in full sun or partial shade. It prefers well-draining soil and does not require much maintenance once established. It is also drought tolerant, making it a great option for dry regions.

Black Medick has been studied for its potential as a natural insecticide. The plant contains compounds called coumestans, which have been shown to have insecticidal properties against a range of pests, including aphids and beetles. This makes it a potentially valuable alternative to synthetic pesticides, which can have negative impacts on the environment and human health.

Another potential use for Black Medick is as a cover crop in agroforestry systems. Agroforestry involves integrating trees, crops, and livestock in a single system to maximize productivity and sustainability. Black Medick is well-suited to this type of system, as it can grow under the shade of trees and provide valuable ground cover and nitrogen fixation.

Finally, Black Medick is also being studied for its potential as a biofuel crop. The seeds contain a high proportion of oil, which can be extracted and used as a feedstock for biodiesel production. This could provide a renewable and sustainable alternative to fossil fuels, reducing greenhouse gas emissions and improving energy security.

Black Medick also has cultural significance in some parts of the world. In Native American cultures, the plant has been used as a traditional medicine to treat a variety of ailments, including respiratory problems and fevers. It is also used in some indigenous healing practices in other parts of the world.

In some countries, Black Medick is also used as a natural dye. The plant contains a yellow dye that can be extracted from the leaves and used to dye textiles and other materials. This provides a sustainable alternative to synthetic dyes, which can have negative environmental impacts.

In terms of conservation, Black Medick is considered a beneficial plant for pollinators, as it attracts a variety of bees and other insects. It is also a good source of food for wildlife, particularly birds and small mammals.

Overall, Black Medick is a fascinating and valuable plant with a wide range of uses and benefits. Its nutritional, medicinal, and ecological properties make it an important component of many agricultural, herbal, and conservation systems. With ongoing research and development, Black Medick has the potential to contribute to a more sustainable and regenerative future.


Video 1:

Video 2:

Video 3: Black Medick filmed at these 2 locations:
  • Chorley, Lancashire: 19th May 2023
  • Hic Bibi Nature Reserve, Coppull, Lancashire: 30th July 2023

Music credits
Chasin' It by Audionautix is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 license.

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Distribution Map

Reproduced by kind permission of the BSBI.

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