Lotus corniculatus (Birds-foot Trefoil)

Plant Info
Also known as: Birdfoot Deervetch
Family:Fabaceae (Pea)
Life cycle:perennial
  • Invasive - ERADICATE!
Habitat:sun; fields, lawns, along roads
Bloom season:June - August
Plant height:6 to 24 inches
Wetland Indicator Status:GP: FACU MW: FACU NCNE: FACU
MN county distribution (click map to enlarge):Minnesota county distribution map
National distribution (click map to enlarge):National distribution map

Pick an image for a larger view. See the glossary for icon descriptions.

Detailed Information

Flower: Flower shape: irregular Cluster type: flat Cluster type: round

[photo of flowers] A whorl of 3 to 8 bright yellow flowers at the tip of a long, naked stalk arising from leaf axils along branching stems. Flowers are about ½ inch long, pea-shaped with an erect, broad upper petal and 2 smaller lateral petals hiding the pistil and stamens. The calyx is light green with 5 narrow, prong-like teeth. Flowers may turn orange, sometimes streaked red.

Leaves and stem: Leaf attachment: alternate Leaf type: compound Leaf type: palmate

[photo of leaves] Leaves are compound in 5s with 3 leaflets at the tip of the leaf stalk and a pair of leaflets at the base of the stalk where it joins the stem. The tip leaflets resemble a 3-leaf clover but the leaflets are at bit more elongated, up to ¾ inch long, rounded or pointed at the tip, wedge-shaped at the base. The pair of leaflets at the base are slightly smaller and more egg-shaped, pointed at the tip and rounded at the base, and resemble leafy stipules. All leaflets are stalkless, toothless and mostly hairless. Stems are angled, mostly hairless, much branched, sprawling to ascending or prostrate but rising at the tips (decumbent), occasionally erect.

Fruit: Fruit type: capsule/pod

[photo of fruit] Fruit is a slender, purplish-brown pod about 1 inch long with the remains of the style at the tip. Inside are up to 25 tiny brownish-black seeds.


This is a terrible pest plant, brought here initially as a forage crop then marketed as “good for erosion control” and other uses. It was planted far and wide and quickly spread into disturbed soils as well as higher grade habitat. It is now is so ubiquitous there's really no controlling it. It is still sold in turf seed mixes as well as fodder mixes.

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More photos

Photos by K. Chayka taken in Chisago, Ramsey and Washington counties.


Have you seen this plant in Minnesota, or have any other comments about it?

Posted by: Deborah C
on: 2009-06-29 18:35:33

I have several in my front yard. I live in Cloquet MN. Here is a link [on Facebook] to the photo I took. I moved here last year and this year decided to take pictures of all the flowers i could find on my 120 acers of property.

Posted by: K Chayka
on: 2009-06-29 18:53:03

I know you will have a wonderful time photographing 120 acres of wildflowers!

Posted by: Daniel G
on: 2009-07-12 12:30:39

We have them aplenty in Hubbard County near Itasca

Posted by: Judy - Cloquet
on: 2009-08-09 20:19:16

They're all over my mother's lawn.

Posted by: Anne - St. Paul
on: 2009-08-30 15:33:31

I think they are gorgeous and would like to include them in my well-established backyard perennial garden, but it seems the DNR classifies them as an invasive species that chokes out native wildflowers. I would appreciate some advice on whether that means I shouldn't plant them. What are the practical -- or "moral" considerations?

Posted by: K Chayka
on: 2009-08-30 21:11:06

I ask that you reconsider. It makes it that much harder to control invasive species when people plant them on purpose. And as much as you try, you cannot keep them contained to your own yard, so they will just add to the ever increasing problem.

Posted by: Sonja - McGrath
on: 2010-12-09 10:56:25

Aww man I love these flowers their the only thing we can grow in that area! Grass barely grows there lol. They do get pretty thick and intense scented. *sighs* was happy about the creeping charlie but this is a bummer.

Posted by: Robin - Northwood Park, New Hope, MN.
on: 2011-06-08 14:00:24

Possible native wildflower planting? It doesn't look like it should be here on the distribution map. Found June 8, 2011 - a few feet from creek.

Posted by: Kathy along the Paul Bunyon and Heartland Bike Trails
on: 2011-08-20 19:20:16

I'm thinking these are the ubiquitous yellow flowers we saw as we were biking this last week. I'm a rookie at flower ID, so wonder if anyone can confirm this!

Posted by: K. Chayka
on: 2011-08-20 21:52:45

Most likely that is what you saw, as it is ubiquitous along roadsides in most of the state.

Posted by: Amanda - Red Lake Falls
on: 2011-09-22 07:56:37

I have been wondering what these flowers are for ages! They like to grow around our area, especially near the curbs. Thanks so much for the information!

Posted by: John - Elm Creek Park Reserve
on: 2012-09-26 15:07:33

Saw several small clumps of these growing along bike path while out looking at what was left of the flowers for the year.

Posted by: Chris - Sartell, minnesota
on: 2013-08-11 17:06:33

We have some hunting land near Hinckley and I found this flower. Had a time identifying it, at first thought it was some sort of yellow alfalfa. Just one plant, but with a deep root. Was surprised to see that are classified to eradicate. As I am working on a 80 x 10 foot stretch or perennials and butterfly flowers at my home in Sartell, do you think wise to plant this in my yard?

Posted by: K. Chayka
on: 2013-08-14 17:26:12

Chris, there won't be any benefit to butterflies (or anything else) by planting birds-foot trefoil. You'll just be spreading an invasive species to new locations. Most of our sponsor native plant nurseries (see "where to buy native plants and seeds") sell butterfly or other wildlife garden packs/kits. If your intent is to serve native insects, this is a good way to go if you aren't sure what to plant.

Posted by: Marc - Grant County
on: 2014-08-21 11:14:15

This is an exotic/invasive species and acts like one. Do not be fooled by the pretty flower...it is a menace and has taken over many cities. Mowing will not kill it only chemicals will. Control it now, before it spreads. Unfortunately it is not declared a noxious weed yet, but it should be. Minnesotans, do not plant this invasive weed!

Posted by: Melissa - Bemidji
on: 2015-06-21 12:29:46

These are growing alongside the Paul Bunyan State Trail going south out of Bemidji.

Posted by: Nancy - St Louis Park 55426
on: 2015-06-27 12:59:31

Our condominium has a prairie grass area which is being invaded by what I think is birds-foot trefoil. Is there an effective biologic option for controlling it. How to eradicate it without harming other wildflowers and plants?

Posted by: Jim - border Iowa
on: 2015-07-06 13:59:08

How the times have changed. When I was in Ag College years ago, anyone who grazed cattle and did not have birdsfoot trefoil or crown vetch was missing the boat. Nutritious, soil-holding and hardy. We had a heckuva time getting it to grow and now it is everywhere it seems.

Posted by: K. Chayka
on: 2015-07-06 14:39:57

Jim, that was just marketing talk from the MN Crop Improvement Association and it was largely a lie, just so they could sell more weeds to unsuspecting and gullible farmers and resource managers.

Posted by: Shannon - Park Rapids
on: 2015-08-29 19:03:23

Found these in Heartland Park near the wooded area of the Fishhook River. They are spread throughout the grass in the park- pretty little flowers, I was surprised when I "invasive".

Posted by: Joey - Sibley co.
on: 2016-06-22 11:21:53

Don't any of you people have your own opinion? Just because others call it invasive doesn't mean it a bad plant. So what if it grows in the wild. Tell me what is it hurting? You would rather have thousands of gallons of chemical sprayed to kill it? It's here to stay. God gave us these flowers for a reason. To the person that said its no good for anything, you're wrong. It's an excellent nectar and pollen plant for the honeybees. It's people with these idiotic ideas that cause the demise of birds butterflies and bees. Do research. Pick an invasive flower. See if it's a nectar and/ or flower producer.

Posted by: K. Chayka
on: 2016-06-22 21:29:40

Joey, God did not give MN this plant - the MN Crop Improvement Assn. did, and there was no higher purpose other than there was profit to be made. The problem with the nectar/pollen argument is that the native plants that invasive species displace were the nectar/pollen source before the arrival of those invasives. With few exceptions, invasive species decrease diversity and degrade habitat for native insects and wildlife. BTW, honey bees are not native and are generalists that can feed on a variety of plants. Many native insects are specialists that need certain native plants to survive. You don't help the situation by replacing natives with exotic species.

Posted by: Jacquelynn G. - Hull–Rust–Mahoning Open Pit Iron Mine-Hibbing, MN
on: 2016-08-18 20:25:40

Growing among the Red Clover and grass adjacent to the viewing station parking lot.

Posted by: Clem - Merrifield, Crow Wing County
on: 2017-06-27 08:55:17

Along the ditch on Cty Road 3 east side of road by Ossipee

Posted by: susan s - Jay Cooke State Park area, NE Minn.
on: 2017-07-02 20:37:32

Quite common on the roadsides, along state Hwys 210 and 23, and county roads. I had no idea these pretty fragrant flowerswere invasive - thank you for this site!

Posted by: Jessica - Plymouth, MN
on: 2017-07-03 23:37:31

Spotted several clumps of these dainty looking flowers in the lawn at Heather Ponds Park in Plymouth. I'll be keeping an eye out at other parks too!

Posted by: Maureen L - Along hwy. 2 east of Duluth
on: 2017-07-05 13:46:37

I spend the summer in lower peninsula MI. at my cottage, live in TX., rest of year, born in MN. On our way to TRF, MN. I just had my husband stop the car so I could get a flower to maybe planting an area at cottage where not much grows in gravel. Guess I won't huh!! So sad, they are beautiful along the road. I have been commenting on them for miles!

Posted by: Tim U - North Hubbard Cty
on: 2017-07-24 11:17:00

Anybody know a common weedkiller that is effective at killing this invasive?

Posted by: Brenda Pittman - West of Faribault, Rice County
on: 2018-06-24 18:42:28

Found it while walking township road 195th St W.

Posted by: Steve Fester - Roseville
on: 2018-06-26 19:05:35

I spotted this today in Reservoir Woods Park near Dale and Roselawn in Roseville. Thanks for your website - it has been a very helpful resource as I learn about and plant natives in my yard. I will be making a donation soon, too.

Posted by: Edee Lund - Bemidji
on: 2018-07-26 18:18:30

We have birdsfoot growing in our lawn along with other native grasses. I find honey bees and others on it routinely all the time it's blooming!! After 6 years of having it, it's never seemed to take over the lawn!!!

Posted by: Therese Jacobson - Alvarado
on: 2019-08-04 18:54:33

Birdsfoot Trefoil grow in clumps in our yard and also along our gravel road. My husband mows around them in the grass to leave little flower beds for the butterflies and bees.

Posted by: Jones - Bemidji-International Falls
on: 2019-08-05 10:43:40

These seem to be on every road and driveway, they really enjoy gravel but don't seem to pop up in less well draining soil.

Posted by: Pat Janssen - Hill City
on: 2019-08-07 20:26:32

Our honeybees LOVE this plant❣️

Posted by: K. Chayka
on: 2019-08-08 12:01:20

Pat, it is not surprising the European honeybee goes after a non-native plant.

Posted by: tim gaughan - Hastings,Etter , Welch
on: 2020-06-22 12:37:03

They are growing every where along the roads and curbs in these areas , the leaves almost look like tiny Clover. Very pretty , Sad too see it is an invasive weed.

Posted by: senchu - Spring lake township
on: 2020-06-23 16:07:08

I always thought Fabaceae plants would be good for nitrogen fixation, the name and blooms do call for staying the yard, but now I know, better :)

Posted by: Eryn McVay - Eagan
on: 2020-07-12 16:51:42

These are all over the side of the roads here in Eagan. I know they're invasive but I honestly like to see them, they spruce up the area for a little while during summer.

Posted by: TC - Bloomington and Minneapolis
on: 2020-09-06 20:02:18

I've been seeing this plant around Minneapolis and its suburbs my whole life. It was deep in the heart of Bush Lake/Hyland Lake/Normandale Lake park complex by the early 90s. So ubiquitous I had assumed it was native. Sad to hear the true story.

Posted by: Tom R. - Near Bemidji
on: 2021-07-18 21:27:52

We have them in southern Beltrami County and I have a small patch that showed up in my yard! They are delicate and beautiful. They might be invasive, but I have no intention of destroying them. Regardless of where they came from, they are still a wild flower native to this planet!

Posted by: K. Chayka
on: 2021-07-19 08:49:00

Tom, all plants are native somewhere on the planet. That doesn't mean they should be everywhere, too.

Posted by: Kelly
on: 2022-01-11 09:34:58

Just curious why this plant is listed as something to be eradicated, whild white clover is merely weedy. They both behave the same way (Fabaceae-nitrogen fixing, creeping groundcovers, non-native, pollinator friendly). I don't support non-natives, but fail to see why there is a disparity in how some are regarded and tolerated. Seems like Trifolium repens is getting a free pass to stick around, but not trefoil; please explain why.

Posted by: K. Chayka
on: 2022-01-11 10:28:25

Kelly, consider that white clover is primarily a garden and lawn weed, and establishes in other places like vacant lots that are already weedy. Birds-foot trefoil can also establish itself in higher quality habitat, which is more problematic.

Posted by: Kelsey Dawson - BALDWIN, WI
on: 2022-02-03 09:51:03

Does anyone know what these seeds look like? I bought a wildflower seed pack from Lowes in Stillwater and it has these seeds in it. I would like to take them out so that I can use the rest... as I am so close to the border I would rather not plant this if I can avoid it.

Posted by: K. Chayka
on: 2022-02-03 10:05:17

Kelsey, chances are birds-foot trefoil is not the only weed or (potentially) invasive species in your "wildflower" seed mix. If your intent is to plant native wildflowers, you should only purchase from reliable native plant nurseries.

Posted by: Stuart Smith - Todd County
on: 2022-07-07 10:24:12

Are you folks screaming about BFT being invasive aware that MNDOT uses it as part of the mix used after road construction? As far BFT"choking out" native vegetation. I don't see it in this area. The same areas that have had BFT for 10 years have it now, and those same areas continue to have plenty of other blooming plant species as well.

Posted by: bruce honnigford - Minnetonka
on: 2022-07-29 14:10:00

An ECOSYSTEM is a geographic area where plants, animals, organisms, weather and landscapes work together to form a bubble of life. Within are native habitats that have evolved for millions of years and are delicately balanced to support the species that thrive within them. "Invasives", in this context, are plants that can significantly disrupt this balance and have the potential to eliminate species that have existed throughout the millennia. If you take all the plants and animals that exist on the planet and mix them together so they have to compete, in the end you will be left with a world inhabited with nothing but cockroaches, thistles and humans.

Posted by: Andy McKibben - Ely
on: 2023-07-08 07:30:32

Seems that in last year or two has overtaken our septic mound and surrounding meadow-like areas. For those skeptical, it does indeed outcompete natives we have taken 10-15 years to establish.

Posted by: Christa Drake - Lake Bemidji State Park in Beltrami County
on: 2023-07-13 09:32:44

We have found this at Lake Bemidji State Park.

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