BIRDSFOOT TREFOIL (Lotus corniculatus)

Eurasia, N Africa

Birdsfoot Trefoil


Birdsfoot Trefoil, a perennial member of the pea family, makes a dense mat of tiny green leaves. From late spring to early autumn, buds appear which open into bright YELLOW flowers. Once the flowers have gone over, black seedpods appear in groups of three, each threesome resembling a bird’s foot.

Birdsfoot trefoil, Common blue caterpillar from Ecology Centre mural

Birdsfoot Trefoil, Common Blue Butterfly & Caterpillar from Ecology Centre mural, Gillespie Park

Bees’ Favourite.

Birdsfoot Trefoil is an important plant for wildlife. Pollinated by Bumblebees, this plant is visited by Butterflies (the Common blue and Brown argus) and other insects for its nectar. Its leaves are caterpillar foodplants for the Common Blue and Silver-studded Blue Butterflies and the Six-spot Burnet Moth.

Lotus corniculatus likes full sun and does not mind whether conditions are sheltered or exposed – it will grow in loam, chalk or sand as long as it is well drained. This perennial legume is planted for erosion control; it grows well in wildflower meadows and in fields as a forage plant for grazing.

Birdsfoot Trefoil


Botanical painting by J.N.Fitch

A R Horwood, British Wild Flowers in their Favourite Haunts,

The Gresham Publishing Company, 1919.

Other names: Boots-and-Shoes, Cat Cluke, Cat-poddish, Cheesecake, Common trefoil, Cornette, Cube, Crow-foot, Crowtaes, Cuckoo’s Stockings, Cuernecillo (Spanish), Devil’s Claws, Devil’s Fingers, Dutchman’s Clogs, Eggs-and-Bacon, Fingers and Toes, Gazelboynuzu (Turkish), Gewone rolklaver (Dutch), Gewöhnliche Hornklee (German), Ginestrino (Italian), God Almighty’s Flowers, God Almighty’s Thumbs-and-Fingers, Golden Slippers, Granny’s Toenails, Ground Honeysuckle, Hen and Chickens, Jack Jump About, Kitty Two-shoes, Lady’s Boots, Lady’s Fingers and Thumbs, Lady’s Glove, Lady’s Shoes and Stockings, Lady’s Slipper, Lamb’s Sucklings, Lamb’s Toe, Our Lady’s Cushion, Milkmaid, Patten and Clogs, Pig’s Pettitoes, Serradelle, Trèfle cornu (French), Sheepfoot and Venus’s Shoe.