Birdsfoot trefoil (lotus corniculatus), is a perennial weed, which has a low mat-forming growth habit. Often termed as Bird's-foot Trefoil, it is also known in cultivation in North America as Birdfoot Deervetch. This moderate perennial legume has grown worldwide as a forage and animal feed supplement. As ground cover, it provides green cover most of the year and blooms profusely.
The stem of a birdsfoot trefoil plant grows to about 60 cm (2 feet) long. Leaves are smooth and consist of 5 leaflets. It has a well developed, branching, tap-like root with side roots near the soil surface. The bloom is made up of a cluster of bright yellow flowers arranged in a whorl at the end of the flowering stems. Due to its appearance of the seed pods, it got the name of 'bird's foot.
Like other forage legumes, birdsfoot trefoil also requires fertile and well-drained soil. It is well suited to low and moderately fertile soils with relatively poor internal drainage. It is typically sprawling at the height of the surrounding grassland.
Birdsfoot trefoil spreads by seed that germinates in the spring, but can also spread by rhizomes and stolons to form dense patches. In USA, it is often confused with large hop clover.
Uses of Birdsfoot Trefoil
In agriculture, birdsfoot trefoil is used as a forage plant, grown for pasture, hay, and silage. Since it is capable of tolerating many soil conditions, it may be used as an alternative to alfalfa in poor soils. It is also used for:
Erosion control: Birdsfoot trefoil is used along roadsides to control wind and water erosion
Garden Ornamentation: A variety of plants are grown as an ornamental plant. A double flowered variety is one of the most popular examples of this
Wildlife: Birdsfoot trefoil is a choice food for Canada goose, deer, and elk. As ground cover, it provides green cover most of the year and blooms profusely
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.