Trefoil, Birdsfoot

Planting Rate 5 lbs/acre
Seed Count 349000
Botanical Name Lotus corniculatus
Life Cycle Perennial
Environment Full Sun - Partial Sun
Preferred Sites Disturbed
Bloom Period May-Septemebr
Flower Color Yellow


Birdsfoot trefoil is moderately long-lived herbaceous perennial legume. It has a well developed, branching, tap-like root with side roots near the soil surface. Most cultivars are erect and grow to a height of 2 to 3 feet. When ripe, the brown seed pods extend outward from the stalk and look like a bird’s foot.

USES: Birdsfoot trefoil is used along roadsides to control wind and water erosion.

WILDLIFE: Birdsfoot trefoil is a choice food for Canada good, deer, and elk. As ground cover, it provides green cover most of the year and blooms profusely. It is used for pheasant cover on shooting preserves and around ponds at duck clubs.

LIVESTOCK: This species is used for green chop, hay and pasture. IT is seeded in combination with grass and grazed as a non-bloating legume. As a dryland pasture legume, birdsfoot trefoil produces 20% more growth after July 1 than most dry land grass legume mixtures.

ADAPTATION AND DISTRIBUTION: Birdsfoot trefoil is generally used in areas that receive 20 inches of precipitation or more. It is suited to low and moderately fertile soils with relatively poor internal drainage but is usually less productive than alfalfa on fertile, deep, well-drained soils. It performs well on soils too shallow or too poorly drained alfalfa. It is equal to alfalfa in tolerance to saline-alkaline soils and is adapted to soils of medium acidity.

ESTABLISHMENT: For forage production birdsfoot trefoil is typically seeded at 4 to 8 pounds per acre either alone or with a grass. Seeding rates for erosion control practices may run considerably higher depending on the mix. Seed should be inoculated and drilled ¼ inch deep during early spring or late summer, with orchard grass, timothy, meadow foxtail, or tall fescue. If planting in late summer or in sandy soils, increase seeding depth to ½ inch.

MANAGEMENT: Regrowth of birdsfoot trefoil differs from that of alfalfa in that it originates at buds formed in leaf axils. Delay spring grazing until plants are at least 8 inches high. Hay harvest should leave 4 to 6 inches of stubble to ensure good regrowth.

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