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Orange Birdsfoot

Ornithopus pinnatus

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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, 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:
20 centimetres tall
Fields, gardens, grassland, heathland, wasteland.

Orange, 5 petals
Orange-yellow flowers with red veins. 9 to 10 stamens. 1 to 2 flowers per head.
The fruit is a beaded pod. The pod is less beaded than that of the similar looking Birdsfoot (Ornithopus perpusillus).
The glabrous leaves consist of 5 to 9 paired, opposite, untoothed leaflets. Annual.
Other Names:
Bird's-foot Deervetch, Bird's-foot Trefoil.
Frequency (UK):
Rarely seen  

Similar Species

Other Information


Ornithopus pinnatus, also known as bird's-foot trefoil or bird's-foot deervetch, is a perennial herb native to Europe and Asia. It is a member of the Fabaceae family and is closely related to plants such as clovers and beans. Bird's-foot trefoil is characterized by its small, pea-like flowers and compound leaves that resemble the toes of a bird's foot. It is a herbaceous plant that grows in a variety of habitats, including grasslands, meadows, and pastures. Bird's-foot trefoil is valued as a forage crop for livestock and is often used as a cover crop due to its ability to fix nitrogen in the soil. It is also sometimes grown as an ornamental plant due to its attractive flowers and long bloom period.


Orange Birdsfoot, also known as Ornithopus pinnatus, is a herbaceous plant species native to the Mediterranean region. It is a member of the legume family, and is also known by other common names such as the orange bird's-foot trefoil, and European bird's-foot.

This plant species is widely cultivated for its beautiful orange flowers, which bloom in the late spring to early summer. The flowers are borne in clusters and have a unique shape, resembling a bird's foot, which gives rise to the plant's common name.

In addition to its ornamental value, Orange Birdsfoot is also considered to have ecological importance. It is a nitrogen-fixing species, meaning it is able to convert atmospheric nitrogen into a form that can be used by other plants. This makes it a valuable component of natural ecosystems, as well as in agriculture, where it is often used as a cover crop.

Aside from its ecological benefits, Orange Birdsfoot is also known for its medicinal properties. It has been used in traditional medicine to treat various ailments, such as skin conditions, respiratory issues, and digestive problems. The plant is also said to have anti-inflammatory and antifungal properties.

Cultivating Orange Birdsfoot is relatively easy and it is suitable for a wide range of growing conditions. It grows best in well-drained soils and full sun, but can also tolerate light shade. It is a hardy plant, and can withstand drought and dry conditions.

Orange Birdsfoot is a low-growing plant, reaching a height of up to 20 cm. The leaves are small, lobed, and green, and are arranged in a circular pattern around the stem. They are also slightly hairy, giving the plant a soft texture.

In addition to its orange flowers, Orange Birdsfoot also produces small, seed-filled pods that are also highly decorative. These pods are a brownish-yellow color and are held upright on the stem, providing an interesting contrast to the bright orange flowers.

One of the key benefits of Orange Birdsfoot is its drought tolerance. Once established, it can survive on rainfall alone, making it a low-maintenance option for gardeners. It is also highly attractive to pollinators, such as bees and butterflies, and provides a valuable source of nectar for these important insects.

In terms of propagation, Orange Birdsfoot can be grown from seeds, which can be sown directly in the garden in the fall or spring. It can also be propagated by division of the root mass, which is a useful technique for creating new plants.

In landscaping, Orange Birdsfoot is often used as a groundcover or in rock gardens, where it can be allowed to spread and form a dense mat of foliage. It can also be used in containers, or planted in mixed borders to add a touch of color and interest.

In summary, Orange Birdsfoot is a versatile and low-maintenance plant, with bright orange flowers, nitrogen-fixing abilities, and medicinal properties. Whether grown in a garden or in a natural setting, it is sure to be a valuable addition to any landscape.

Orange Birdsfoot is a hardy plant species that can be found growing in a variety of habitats, including grasslands, rocky outcroppings, and disturbed areas. It is particularly well-adapted to harsh and arid conditions, making it a popular choice for xeriscaping and other water-saving landscaping techniques.

Aside from its ecological benefits, Orange Birdsfoot is also valued for its versatility in landscaping. Its low growing habit makes it an ideal choice for use as a groundcover, particularly in areas where grass or other taller plants are not well suited. Its bright orange flowers and unique seed pods also make it a popular choice for use in cottage gardens, rock gardens, and other informal planting styles.

In terms of cultural requirements, Orange Birdsfoot is relatively low maintenance and easy to grow. It prefers well-drained soils and full sun, but will also tolerate light shade. It is drought-tolerant and will thrive with minimal watering, making it a great choice for low-water landscapes.

When it comes to pests and diseases, Orange Birdsfoot is generally problem-free. However, it may be susceptible to root rot if planted in poorly-drained soils. It is also not particularly palatable to grazing animals, making it a good choice for landscaping in areas where deer or other wildlife are a concern.

In conclusion, Orange Birdsfoot is a valuable and versatile plant species, with bright orange flowers, nitrogen-fixing abilities, and low-maintenance requirements. Whether used in landscaping or in a natural setting, it is sure to be a valuable addition to any landscape. With its ability to thrive in harsh and arid conditions, it is an ideal choice for water-saving and sustainable landscaping practices.

Distribution Map

Reproduced by kind permission of the BSBI.

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