Rare native wildflower makes a comeback
Sainfoin is a forgotten crop that is making a comeback through wildflower mixes and publicity such as this blog post from the Soil Association, where it is referred to as Holy Hay.
Onobrychis viciifolia prefers chalk
Onobrychis viciifolia enjoys open ground and chalk so it is at home here on the South Downs. I have no idea whether the flowers I have spotted are native wildflowers, or (in the case of Long Burgh barrow) a self seeded escape, or (for the wildflower meadow just outside Seaford) intentionally sown in a wildflower mix with purple vetches and ox-eye daisy.*
It is quite a large flowered legume, so it’s easy to spot when in flower, and the pink flowers have distinctive red stripes, making it hard to confuse with other species. It looked to me like a small garden lupin, being upright and about 40cm high (excluding the leaves which look like a typical vetch). Each flower was about one centimetre across, making the whole conical flower spike 5cm plus high and a few centimetres across.
*Update Jan 2021 – in writing about the vetches, I have come across some gorgeous pollen-rich wildflower mixes for farmers for Countryside Stewardship schemes, which include Sainfoin.