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Dragon's Teeth

Tetragonolobus maritimus

Please keep in mind that it is illegal to uproot a plant without the landowner's consent and care should be taken at all times not to damage wild plants. Wild plants should never be picked for pleasure and some plants are protected by law.
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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, 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:
Maximum Size:
30 centimetres long
Gardens, grassland, roadsides, wasteland.

Yellow, 5 petals
Solitary pale yellow flowers with brown veins. A trefoil bract is situated at the base of each flower. The sepals are sometimes streaked red. Flowers measure up to 3cm across.
Dark brown, 4 winged pods. The pods measure 3 to 6 cm across.
Hairy trefoil leaves. Grows in grassy places. Perennial.
Other Names:
Dragon's-teeth, Maritime Holly, Sea Holly, Wild Tom Thumbs.
Frequency (UK):

Other Information


Tetragonolobus maritimus, also known as sea holly or maritime holly, is a species of flowering plant in the carrot family. It is native to Europe and Asia, and it is commonly found along the coast in sandy or gravelly soils. Tetragonolobus maritimus is a perennial herb that grows to a height of 60-80 cm (2-2.5 feet). It has spiny, blue-green leaves and produces clusters of small, white or pale blue flowers in the summer. The flowers are followed by small, black seeds that are dispersed by wind. Tetragonolobus maritimus is often grown as an ornamental plant in gardens, and it is also used in landscaping and erosion control.


Dragon's Teeth: Tetragonolobus maritimus

Have you ever heard of the "Dragon's Teeth"? No, not the mythological creature's teeth, but a rare species of plant native to the coastal regions of the Mediterranean. The plant is scientifically known as Tetragonolobus maritimus, and it has an interesting history and unique features that make it a fascinating subject to learn about.


Tetragonolobus maritimus is a species of plant that was first discovered by the ancient Greeks and Romans. The plant's unique shape and robustness earned it the nickname "Dragon's Teeth." The ancient Greeks believed that the plant was capable of warding off dragons and other mythical creatures. They also used the plant for medicinal purposes, as they believed it had healing properties. In the 16th century, sailors discovered that the plant could withstand the harsh conditions of the sea, making it a popular addition to ship gardens. Today, Tetragonolobus maritimus is widely cultivated for its ornamental and medicinal uses.


Tetragonolobus maritimus is a small shrub that typically grows to about 30 cm in height. It has a thick and robust stem that is covered in small, needle-like leaves. The plant's most distinctive feature is its flowers, which are small, white, and star-shaped. The flowers are arranged in clusters on the tips of the stems, giving the plant an attractive, fluffy appearance. In the fall, the plant produces small, green fruits that turn red as they mature.

Growing Conditions

Tetragonolobus maritimus is a hardy plant that can tolerate a wide range of growing conditions. It prefers well-drained soil and full sun exposure. The plant is drought-tolerant, making it an ideal choice for coastal regions where water can be scarce. Tetragonolobus maritimus is also salt-tolerant, making it ideal for planting in seaside gardens or coastal landscaping. The plant is low maintenance and does not require frequent pruning.


In addition to its ornamental value, Tetragonolobus maritimus has several medicinal uses. The plant is used in traditional medicine to treat a variety of ailments, including digestive problems, skin conditions, and respiratory issues. The plant's active ingredients, including phenols and terpenoids, are believed to have anti-inflammatory and antibacterial properties. Tetragonolobus maritimus is also used as a natural remedy for anxiety and stress.

Tetragonolobus maritimus is a fascinating plant with a rich history and unique features. Whether you are interested in its ornamental value, medicinal properties, or its ability to withstand harsh growing conditions, Tetragonolobus maritimus is a plant worth learning about. So, the next time you visit the coast, keep an eye out for these "Dragon's Teeth."


Tetragonolobus maritimus is easy to cultivate and is well suited for coastal regions. It can be grown from seeds or cuttings, and the plant is typically propagated by division. When planting Tetragonolobus maritimus, it is important to select a location that is well-drained and receives full sun exposure. The plant is drought-tolerant, but it is important to provide it with adequate water, especially during the establishment period. Once established, Tetragonolobus maritimus requires minimal care, making it an ideal choice for low-maintenance gardens.

Pests and Diseases

Tetragonolobus maritimus is a hardy plant that is not commonly affected by pests or diseases. However, the plant can be susceptible to fungal diseases, such as powdery mildew, if the growing conditions are too humid. To prevent fungal diseases, it is important to provide adequate air circulation around the plant and to avoid overwatering.

In the Landscape

Tetragonolobus maritimus is an attractive plant that adds texture and interest to the landscape. It is an excellent choice for coastal gardens and rock gardens. The plant can be used as a groundcover, as a border plant, or as an accent plant. Tetragonolobus maritimus is also a popular choice for planting in containers and can be grown on balconies and patios.

Tetragonolobus maritimus, also known as Dragon's Teeth, is a fascinating plant with a rich history and unique features. It is easy to cultivate, low-maintenance, and has both ornamental and medicinal value. If you are looking for a plant to add to your coastal garden or a low-maintenance landscaping project, consider Tetragonolobus maritimus. With its hardiness, attractive appearance, and ability to withstand harsh growing conditions, it is sure to make a beautiful and long-lasting addition to your garden.

Wildlife Benefits

Tetragonolobus maritimus is not only a beautiful and useful plant for humans, but it also provides a number of benefits for wildlife. The plant is a source of food for a variety of wildlife species, including birds and insects. The small white flowers are a source of nectar for bees, butterflies, and other pollinators. Tetragonolobus maritimus is also an important habitat for other wildlife species, such as lizards and small mammals.


Tetragonolobus maritimus is not considered to be a threatened species, but it is important to protect its natural habitats and maintain healthy populations of the plant. In some areas, Tetragonolobus maritimus is at risk due to habitat loss, overgrazing, and urbanization. Conservation efforts, such as habitat restoration and the protection of natural habitats, are important to ensure the long-term survival of this species.


Tetragonolobus maritimus is a versatile plant that has been cultivated for its ornamental and medicinal properties for centuries. Today, there are a number of cultivars available, each with its own unique characteristics and growing requirements. Some of the most popular cultivars include 'Albus,' which has white flowers, 'Roseus,' which has pink flowers, and 'Variegatus,' which has white and pink striped leaves.

In summary, Tetragonolobus maritimus is a unique and fascinating plant that offers a range of benefits for humans and wildlife alike. Whether you are interested in its ornamental value, medicinal properties, or its ability to provide habitat for wildlife, Tetragonolobus maritimus is a plant worth considering for your garden or landscaping project.

Distribution Map

Reproduced by kind permission of the BSBI.

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