Lotus ambiguous Spreng.
Lotus arvensis Pers.
Lotus balticus Miniaev
Lotus carpetanus Lacaita
Lotus caucasicus Kuprian.
Lotus frondosus (Freyn) Kuprian.
Lotus japonicus (Regel) K.Larsen
Lotus komarovii Miniaev
Lotus major Scop.
Lotus olgae Klokov
Lotus ruprechtii Miniaev
Lotus tauricus Juz.
Lotus zhegulensis Klokov
Common Name: Bird's Foot Trefoil
Lotus corniculatus is a herbaceous perennial plant producing numerous decumbent to ascending stems growing from a taproot; it can grow 15 - 80cm tall[
The plant is harvested from the wild for local use as a medicine, dye and possibly food. It is often grown as a green manure and soil improver.
All parts of the plant are poisonous, containing cyanogenic glycosides(hydrogen cyanide)[
]. In small quantities, hydrogen cyanide has been shown to stimulate respiration and improve digestion, it is also claimed to be of benefit in the treatment of cancer. In excess, however, it can cause respiratory failure and even death. This species is polymorphic for cyanogenic glycosides[
The flowers of some forms of the plant contain traces of prussic acid and so the plants can become mildly toxic when flowering[
]. They are completely innocuous when dried[
Eurasia - Norway to Britain and Portugal, east to Russian Far East, China, Japan, Korea, Afghanistan, Himalayas; Africa - Morocco to Egypt, Ethiopia
Pinus plantations, thickets, scrub, damp meadows, alpine meadows, dry hill pastures, grassy places, rocky slopes, ravines, river valleys, banks, roadsides, abandoned fields, cultivated ground; at elevations from 400 - 3,400 metres[
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Lotus corniculatus is a plant of the temperate zone, where it is found at elevations up to 3,400 metres. It grows best in areas where annual daytime temperatures are within the range 15 - 25°c, but can tolerate 3 - 30°c[
]. When dormant, the plant can survive temperatures down to about -6°c, but young growth is more tender and can be severely damaged at -1°c[
]. It prefers a mean annual rainfall in the range 600 - 1,000mm, but tolerates 350 - 1,900mm[
Requires a well-drained soil in a sunny position[
]. Dislikes shade[
]. Succeeds in a wide range of soils, it is often found in calcareous soils in the wild[[
]. Does well on poor soils[
]. Tolerant of seasonal inundation of the soil[
]. Prefers a pH in the range 6 - 7, tolerating 4.5 - 8.2[
An important food plant for many caterpillars[
]. It is also a good bee plant[
], the flowers providing an important source of nectar[
The flowers are powerfully scented, even though they are able to pollinate themselves[
The plant spreads very freely at the roots[
The plant is long-lived[
This species has a symbiotic relationship with certain soil bacteria, these bacteria form nodules on the roots and fix atmospheric nitrogen. Some of this nitrogen is utilized by the growing plant but some can also be used by other plants growing nearby[
The young seedpods are 'nibbled'[
]. Caution is advised, see notes above on toxicity.
Carminative, febrifuge, hypoglycaemic, restorative, vermifuge[
The flowers are antispasmodic, cardiotonic and sedative[
The root is carminative, febrifuge, restorative and tonic[
The plant is used externally as a local anti-inflammatory compress in all cases of skin inflammation[
A useful green manure plant, fixing atmospheric nitrogen and enriching the soil[
The plant's extensive root system makes it useful for binding the soil and preventing erosion[
It is difficult to see this plant as a useful green manure, it is fairly slow growing with us and does not produce much bulk[
The plant can be used as bioremediator to reduce boron and selenium levels in contaminated soils[
An orange-yellow dye is obtained from the flowers[
Pre-soak the seed for 24 hours in warm water and then sow in the spring or autumn in situ. The seed usually germinates in 2 - 4 weeks at 15°c.
If seed is in short supply, it can be sown in pots in a cold frame. When they are large enough to handle, prick the seedlings out into individual pots and plant them out in late spring or early summer.