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Toothed Medick

Medicago polymorpha

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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 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, 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:
60 centimetres tall
Cliffs, fields, gardens, grassland, lawns, sea cliffs, seaside, wasteland.

Yellow, 5 petals
The tiny flowers appear in clusters of 1 to 8 per head. Pollinated by insects.
The fruit is a pea-like pod. The seeds ripen from July to September.
The leaves are trefoil and the 3 leaflets are toothed. Like Spotted Medick (Medicago arabica) but without spotted leaves and smaller flowers. Annual.
Other Names:
Bur Clover, Burr Medick, California Burclover, Toothed Bur Clover.
Frequency (UK):
Occasionally seen  

Similar Species

Other Information


Medicago polymorpha, also known as burclover, is a perennial legume in the Fabaceae family. It is native to the Mediterranean region, but it is widely distributed in many parts of the world. It typically grows to a height of 30-60 cm (12-24 inches) and has small, yellow flowers that bloom in the spring and summer. The leaves are trifoliate and the plant has a low-growing, spreading habit. It prefers 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 also be used as a cover crop and as a forage crop for livestock. It is drought-resistant and can fix nitrogen in the soil. It can be controlled by using herbicides or by physically removing the plants.


Toothed Medick, also known as Medicago polymorpha, is a plant species in the legume family. It is an annual herb that is native to the Mediterranean region but has since spread to other parts of the world, including North America, Australia, and South Africa. Toothed Medick is a versatile plant that can grow in a variety of soils and conditions, making it a common weed in many agricultural settings.

The Toothed Medick plant is known for its distinctive appearance, with small, yellow flowers that bloom in clusters on long stalks. The leaves of the plant are compound, with three leaflets that have serrated edges, hence the common name “toothed” Medick. The plant produces small, curved pods that contain several small, yellow seeds.

One of the most significant benefits of Toothed Medick is its ability to fix nitrogen in the soil. Like other legumes, Toothed Medick has a symbiotic relationship with nitrogen-fixing bacteria that live in nodules on the plant's roots. These bacteria convert atmospheric nitrogen into a form that the plant can use, improving soil fertility and reducing the need for synthetic fertilizers.

Toothed Medick is also an excellent source of forage for livestock. The plant's high protein content and palatability make it a popular feed for cattle, sheep, and goats. In addition, Toothed Medick is often used in crop rotations to improve soil health and reduce soil erosion.

However, Toothed Medick can also be a problematic weed in agricultural settings. The plant can quickly colonize disturbed soils, outcompeting other plants and reducing crop yields. Its ability to self-seed and spread rapidly makes it challenging to control once established.

Toothed Medick has been used for centuries for its medicinal properties. The plant contains a range of phytochemicals, including flavonoids, alkaloids, and saponins, which are believed to have anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, and antimicrobial effects.

Studies have found that Toothed Medick may have potential health benefits, such as improving blood sugar control and reducing inflammation. One study found that a compound extracted from the plant was able to reduce blood glucose levels in diabetic rats. Another study found that Toothed Medick extract reduced inflammation and oxidative stress in cells.

Toothed Medick has also been used in traditional medicine to treat a variety of ailments, such as digestive problems, respiratory infections, and skin conditions. However, more research is needed to determine the efficacy and safety of using Toothed Medick for medicinal purposes.

In addition to its agricultural and medicinal uses, Toothed Medick has also been studied for its potential as a biofuel crop. The plant's high protein and oil content make it a promising source of renewable energy.

Toothed Medick has also been studied for its potential use in phytoremediation, a process in which plants are used to remove pollutants from contaminated soils. Studies have found that Toothed Medick can absorb heavy metals such as cadmium, lead, and zinc from soil, making it a potential candidate for cleaning up contaminated sites.

Furthermore, Toothed Medick is considered a useful plant for beekeepers as it produces nectar and pollen, making it an important food source for honeybees. Honey produced from Toothed Medick nectar is light in color and has a mild, sweet taste.

The plant is also used in landscaping and erosion control due to its ability to establish quickly and grow in poor soils. In some regions, Toothed Medick is used as a cover crop to protect soil from erosion and improve soil fertility.

Toothed Medick is also used in some cultures as a traditional food. The young leaves and stems of the plant are sometimes eaten raw or cooked, and the seeds can be ground into a flour that is used in baking. Toothed Medick is also used in some traditional herbal teas and medicinal preparations.

In addition, Toothed Medick is an important plant in ecological restoration efforts. The plant's ability to fix nitrogen in the soil, establish quickly, and grow in poor soils makes it a valuable species for reestablishing vegetation in degraded or disturbed areas.

Toothed Medick is also being studied for its potential as a natural pesticide. Researchers have found that extracts from the plant can repel or kill certain insect pests, making it a potential alternative to synthetic pesticides that can be harmful to the environment and human health.

In summary, Toothed Medick is a versatile and valuable plant with many potential uses and benefits. Its ability to fix nitrogen, provide forage, clean up contaminated soils, and support pollinators makes it an important species in many different settings. While its weedy nature can be a challenge in agricultural settings, proper management and control can help harness the plant's many benefits. Overall, Toothed Medick is a plant with a lot to offer, and further research may uncover even more potential uses and benefits.

Distribution Map

Reproduced by kind permission of the BSBI.

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