BIRDSFOOT TREFOIL (Lotus corniculatus)

Eurasia, N Africa


Lotus Corniculatus, a member of the pea family, forms a dense mat of vegetation. This perennial legume likes full sun & does not mind whether conditions are sheltered or exposed… it will grow in loam, chalk or sand, as long as there is good drainage. Birdsfoot Trefoil grows well in wildflower meadows & in fields as a forage plant for grazing. It is planted for erosion control.

Birdsfoot Trefoil grown from seed

Birdsfoot Trefoil

Buds appear in the mat of tiny green leaves from late spring to early autumn. These open into bright YELLOW pea flowers, much visited by pollinators. Once the flowers have gone over, black seedpods appear in groups of three, each threesome resembling a bird’s foot.

Botanical painting by J.N.Fitch

British Wild Flowers in Their Favourite Haunts, A.R.Horwood, The Gresham Publishing Company, 1919.

Birdsfoot trefoil, Common blue caterpillar from Ecology Centre mural

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

Birdsfoot Trefoil


Bees’ Favourite.

Birdsfoot Trefoil is an important plant for wildlife. Pollinated by Bumblebees, its flowers are visited by Butterflies (the Common blue & Brown argus) & other insects for its nectar. Its leaves are caterpillar foodplants for butterflies – the Common Blue & Silver-studded Blue, the Green Hairstreak, the Dingy Skipper & the Six-spot Burnet Moth.





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 & Venus’s Shoe.



In parts of the US it is an invasive species.   Invasive of the Week text observes that Birdsfoot Trefoil has a 3 foot anchoring taproot… Botanical Gardens and Nichols Arboretum.