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
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.
Greater Bird’s Foot Trefoil – Lotus pedunculatus
I knew what this was when I found it on a walk at RSPB Arne. It was in an area of lush growth in some woods – not somewhere I’d expect to find Common Bird’s Foot Trefoil. It was about 50cm tall and visibly hairy.
Hairy leaves and stems:
Other Birds Foot Trefoils
- Narrow leaved Birds Foot Trefoil – Narrow leaves, likes heavy clay – Lotus glaber / tenuis.
- 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: