Hedysarum echinatum Gilib.
Hedysarum onobrychis L.
Onobrychis sativa Lam.
Onobrychis vulgaris Hill.
Common Name: Sainfoin
Onobrychis viciifolia is an erect, herbaceous perennial plant producing a cluster of hollow stems from a strong, well-developed taproot; it can grow 40 - 80cm tall[
The plant is possibly sometimes used for food. It is an excellent soil stabilizer and conditioner, especially on dry, limestone soils and is sometimes grown as an ornamental[
Onobrychis viciifolia is a widespread species, common where it occurs with stable population trends and does not face major threats. The plant is classified as 'Least Concern' in the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species(2013)[
Europe, including Britain, from France south and east to Spain, Siberia, Caucasus and Iran.
Grassland on chalk and limestone[
]. Dry, sunny meadows, pastureland[
|Other Uses Rating
|Cultivated, Ornamental, Wild
Onobrychis viciifolia is a plant of the temperate zone, where it is found at elevations up to 3,000 metres. It grows best in areas where annual daytime temperatures are within the range 18 - 27°c, but can tolerate 4 - 34°c[
]. When dormant, the plant can survive temperatures down to about -4°c, but young growth is more tender and can be severely damaged at -1°c[
]. These minimum temperatures do not seem correct - this is a zone 6 plant and should tolerate -20°c[
]. It prefers a mean annual rainfall in the range 400 - 800mm, but tolerates 250 - 1,100mm[
Prefers a well-drained neutral to alkaline sandy loam in full sun[
]. Succeeds in poor soils[
] and in shallow soils over chalk[
]. Dislikes shade. Plants ae fairly drought tolerant[
]. Does not succeed in wet soils[
]. Prefers a pH in the range 6.5 - 7.5, tolerating 4.9 - 8.2[
A good border plant for the vegetable garden[
], the deep tap root helps to break up the sub-soil[
Plants are resistant to alfalfa stem nematodes[
] and are immune to bacterial wilt disease and attacks by the alfalfa stem weevil[
The plant is subject to crown rot and the stands may not persist more than 5 - 6 years in areas subject to heavy infection[
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[
One report says that the plant is edible[
], but does not say what part of the plant is used.
A good soil conditioner for poor light soils[
]. The plants can be grown on the land for a number of years, the deep tap roots breaking up the sub-soil and bringing up minerals from below. Plants can be cut during the growing season but care must be taken not to cut too low because the tap root tends to rise above ground level and the plant can be killed if this is cut off[
The plant has an extensive root system and is useful for stabilizing soils[
A very good bee plant, producing copiuos quantities of nectar and an excellent quality honey[
Seed - pre-soak for 12 hours in warm water and sow in situ in the spring[
]. Seed can also be sown in situ in the autumn.
If seed is in short supply then it might be wiser to sow it in pots in a cold frame in early spring. Prick out the seedlings into individual pots as soon as they are large enough to handle and plant them out into their permanent positions in early summer.
Division in the spring just before new growth commences[
]. Large divisions can be planted out direct into their permanent positions. We have found that it is better to pot up the smaller divisions and grow them on in light shade in a cold frame until they are well established before planting them out in late spring or early summer.