Bird’s-foot-trefoil (Lotus corniculatus)

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Bird’s-foot-trefoil fact file

Bird’s-foot-trefoil description

KingdomPlantae
PhylumAnthophyta
ClassMagnoliopsida
OrderFabales
FamilyFabaceae
GenusLotus (1)

The humble and diminutive bird’s-foot-trefoil goes by a plethora of local names; Geoffrey Grigson, in ‘The Englishman’s Flora’ counted over 70 (4). Many of these names, including bacon and eggs, refer to the delightful colouration of the flowers, which are a rich yolk-yellow, often streaked with bright red (2). Some, such as ‘Dutchman’s clogs’ and ‘lady’s slippers’ hint at the general shape of the flowers, which resemble old fashioned slippers or shoes (5). The long seed-pods, which are reminiscent of claws, are alluded to by yet other names, including ‘granny’s toenails’ and ‘Devil’s fingers’ (5). This familiar member of the pea family (Fabaceae) creeps along the ground; the stems and lance-shaped leaflets are typically smooth (6).

Also known as
bacon and eggs, butter and eggs, Devil’s fingers, Dutchman’s clogs, granny’s toenails, hen and chickens, lady’s fingers, lady’s slipper.
Size
Height: 5 – 35 cm (2)
Leaflet size: 3 – 8 mm (2)
Flower size: 10 – 16 mm (2)
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Bird’s-foot-trefoil biology

This perennial species flowers throughout most of summer (3) (5). The flowers produce nectar and are usually pollinated by bees (2).

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Bird’s-foot-trefoil range

This native plant is common and widespread throughout Britain (2) (3). It is also found throughout most of mainland Europe, and occurs in Asia, north and east Africa, and in mountainous parts of the tropics (2).

You can view distribution information for this species at the National Biodiversity Network Gateway.
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Bird’s-foot-trefoil habitat

Inhabits grasslands, such as meadows, downland, montane rock ledges, and hill pastures. It also occurs on sand dunes and coastal cliff-tops (3).

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Bird’s-foot-trefoil status

Common and widespread: not threatened (3).

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Bird’s-foot-trefoil threats

This species is not threatened.

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Bird’s-foot-trefoil conservation

Conservation action is not required for this very common species.

There may be further information about this species available via the National Biodiversity Network Gateway.
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Find out more

For more information on British native plants and for details of how to get involved in plant conservation visit the website of Plantlife, the wild plant charity:
www.plantlife.org.uk

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Authentication

This information is awaiting authentication by a species expert, and will be updated as soon as possible. If you are able to help please contact: arkive@wildscreen.org.uk
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Glossary

Leaflets
The individual ‘leaf-like’ parts of a compound leaf.
Perennial
Plants that live for at least three seasons; after an initial period they produce flowers once a year.
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References

  1. National Biodiversity Network Species Dictionary (September, 2003)
    http://www.nhm.ac.uk/nbn/
  2. Clapham, A.R., Tutin, T.G. and & Moore, D.M. (1987) Flora of the British Isles 3rd Edition. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge.
  3. Preston, C.D., Pearman, D.A. and Dines, T.D. (2002) New Atlas of the British and Irish Flora. Oxford University Press, Oxford.
  4. Grigson, G. (1996) The Englishman’s Flora. Helicon Publishing Ltd., Oxford.
  5. Mabey, R. (1996) Flora Britannica. Sinclair-Stevenson, London..
  6. Stace, C. (1991) New Flora of the British Isles. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge.
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Image credit

Bird's-foot-trefoil flowers  
Bird's-foot-trefoil flowers

© Tom Cope / Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew

Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew
Richmond
Surrey
TW9 3AB
United Kingdom
Tel: +44 (0) 208 332 5000
Fax: +44 (0) 208 332 5197
info@kew.org
http://www.rbgkew.org.uk

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