Bird’s Foot Trefoils are a group of yellow pea flowers
UK Lotus species are quite similar
The name Trefoil relates to the leaf layout of these plants. They appear to have their leaves arranged in threes, but a botanist will tell you that they’re actually fives, with the last two attached to the base of the stalk. These low-growing plants are part of the Pea family and all have a few 1cm long yellow and/or orange flowers held unsymmetrically around the stem. The name comes from the appearance of the brown seed pods, although I think the flower buds are equally bird-like.
Common Bird’s Foot Trefoil – Lotus corniculatus
This is the only species of Lotus that I have yet encountered. It is common on chalk grassland near where I live in Sussex, and forms low-growing mats. It has some other imaginative names such as Grannys toenails!
There is also a sub-species which is Lotus corniculatus var. sativus which is often included in bird seed. This has very upright flower stems which are hollow, and no red or orange tinge.
Other Birds Foot Trefoils
- Narrow leaved Birds Foot Trefoil – Narrow leaves, likes heavy clay – Lotus glaber / tenuis.
- Greater Birds Foot Trefoil – Large and hairy (up to 60cm), likes damp – Lotus pedunculatus.
- Hairy Birds Foot Trefoil – Short and hairy, rare – Lotus subbiflorus / hispidus.
- Slender Birds Foot Trefoil – Annual, rare – Lotus angustissimus.
Other UK Trefoils such as Hop Trefoil, Trifolium campestre are not Lotus species so will have a separate page in time.
Blog posts mentioning Birds Foot Trefoil – Lotus are tagged Lotus
Read about more members of the pea family: