Lotus corniculatus (Birds-foot Trefoil)

Plant Info
Also known as: Birdfoot Deervetch
Genus:Lotus
Family:Fabaceae (Pea)
Life cycle:perennial
Origin:Europe
Status:
  • 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.

Notes:

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.

Comments

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!

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