Carnegiea gigantea, Giant Saguaro

Southwest Desert Flora

Home to the plants of the Sonoran, Chihuahuan and Mojave Deserts

Cirsium ochrocentrum, Yellowspine Thistle

Lotus corniculatus, Bird's Foot Trefoil

Lotus corniculatus, Bird's Foot Trefoil, Southwest Desert Flora Lotus corniculatus, Bird's Foot Trefoil, Southwest Desert Flora Lotus corniculatus, Bird's Foot Trefoil, Southwest Desert Flora

Scientific Name: Lotus corniculatus
Common Name: Bird's Foot Trefoil

Also Called: Birdfoot Deervetch, Bird's Foot Trefoil, Birdsfoot Trefoil, Bloomfell, Cat's Clover, Common Bird's-foot Trefoil, Crowtoes, Eggs and Bacon, Garden Birdsfoot Trefoil, Garden Bird's-foot-trefoil, Ground Honeysuckle

Family: Fabaceae or Leguminosae Family

Synonyms: (Lotus caucasicus, Lotus corniculatus var. arvensis)

Status: Introduced, native to grassland in temperate Eurasia and North Africa.

Duration: Perennial

Size: 8 to 24 inches (20 - 60 cm) more or less.

Growth Form: Bird's Foot Trefoil is a forb/herb; sprawling horizontally without rooting and becoming erect, stems slender may reach 24 inches (60 cm ), older plants becoming bushy; plants typically without surface hairs (glabrous).

Leaves: Bird's Foot Trefoil has green leaves; the leaves are compound with trifoliolate or trifoliate leaflets.

Flower Color: Bird's Foot Trefoil has bright yellow sweet pea-like flowers in clusters; the fruit is a small cylindrical pod.

Flowering Season: May or June to August or September.

Elevation: 3,000 to 4,000 feet (916-1,219 m).

Habitat Preferences: Open, disturbed areas, often in sandy soils.

Recorded Range: introduced widespread throughout most of North America.

North America & US County Distribution Map for Lotus corniculatus.

North America species range map for Bird's Foot Trefoil, Lotus corniculatus:

North America species range map for Bird's Foot Trefoil, Lotus corniculatus:
Click image for full size map.

Threatened/Endangered Information: Unknown

U.S. Wetland Indicator: In North America Lotus corniculatus, Bird's Foot Trefoil i has the following wetland designations:
  • Arid West, FAC
  • Atlantic and Gulf Coastal Plain, FACU;
  • Eastern Mountains and Piedmont, FACU;
  • Great Plains, FACU;
  • Midwest, FACU;
  • Northcentral & Northeast, FACU;
  • Western Mountains, Valleys, and Coast, FAC;
  • FAC = Facultative, occur in wetlands and non-wetlands
    FACU = Facultative Upland, usually occur in non-wetlands, but may occur in wetlands

    U.S. Weed Information: In North America Lotus corniculatus, Bird's Foot Trefoil is listed in 46 states; and can be weedy or invasive according to the following authoritative sources:
  • Weeds of the Northeast,
  • Weeds of Nebraska and the Great Plains,
  • Plants included here may become weedy or invasive.

    U.S. Invasive/Noxious Weed Information: In North America Lotus corniculatus, Bird's Foot Trefoil is listed as a Noxious Weed by:
  • Alaska Exotic Plant Information Clearinghouse
  • City of Ann Arbor Michigan Parks and Recreation
  • Wisconsin Dept. Natural Resources (1997)
  • National Park Service Lands 2000-2007
  • The Nature Conservancy (1995)
  • Kentucky Exotic Pest Plant Council
  • Native Plant Society of Oregon (2008)
  • West Virginia Native Plant Society (1999)

  • International Invasive/Noxious Weed Information: according to;
  • Lotus corniculatus is native to Eurasia and North Africa and occurs in pastures, roadsides, wetlands, disturbed grasslands and riparian areas.
  • Genus Information: In North America, USDA Plants Database lists 142 species for Lotus. Worldwide, World Flora Online includes 605 accepted species names for the genus.

    The genus Lotus is under current taxonomic review and many species are now classified under the genus Acmispon.
    The genus Lotus was published in 1753 by Carl Linnaeus, (1707-1778).

    In the Southwestern United States: Arizona has 15 species of Lotus, California has 35 species, Nevada has 12 species, New Mexico has 5 species, Texas has 4 species and Utah has 8 species. Data approximate, subject to revision.

    There is 1 sub-species in Lotus corniculatus;
  • Lotus corniculatus ssp. frondosus;

  • There are 3 varieties in Lotus corniculatus, 1 variety in the range recorded above;
  • Lotus corniculatus var. carnosus;
  • Lotus corniculatus var. corniculatus; (see range recorded above);
  • Lotus corniculatus var. hirsutus;
  • Comments: Photos above taken March 25, north of Superior, AZ, in the Tonto National Forest, Maricopa County.

    Although listed as an introduced species, Lotus corniculatus is cultivated in North America under the name Birdfoot Deervetch. Lotus corniculatus has acquired several common names some of which are also used for other Lotus species.

    Also see in Southwest Desert Flora; Foothill Deervetch, Lotus humistratus; Shrubby Deervetch, Lotus rigidus, Coastal Bird's-foot Trefoil, Lotus salsuginosus and Wright's Deervetch, Lotus wrightii.

    Importance to Wildlife, Birds and Livestock
    Lotus corniculatus has attractive flowers, the flowers and their seeds may be visited by hummingbirds and/or small mammals including rodents and granivorous birds in search of nectar or food.

    Beneficial Value to Butterflies, Honey Bees and Insects
    Lotus corniculatus has attractive flowers, the flowers and their plants may be visited by butterflies, moths, flies, honeybees, Native Bees and other insects in search of food and nectar.

    Bird's Foot Trefoil, Lotus corniculatus, is known to attract Bumblebees, genus Bombus, family Apidae. Bumblebees are important pollinators in North America. Find out more here from the Xerces Society for Invertabrate Conservation.

    Find out more here from Butterflies and Moths of North America (BAMONA).
  • Sandhill Skipper, Polites sabuleti
  • Etymology:
    The genus “Lotus” (Lo'tus:); Greek origin, name applied to the taste of the Jujube fruit (Ziziphus jujuba); thought to induce contentment and forgetfulness.
    The genus was published in 1753 by Carl Linnaeus, (1707-1778).

    The species epithet corniculatus (cornicula'tus:) means horned.

    Ethnobotany - Native American Ethnobotany; University of Michigan - Dearborn
    Unknown for this particular Lotus species.

    Date Profile Completed: 08/22/2015, updated 01/31/2022
    References and additional information:

    Arizona Flora, Kearney, Thomas H., Peebles, Robert H., 1960, University of California Press, Berkley and Los Angeles, California.; Department of Agriculture, Natural Resources Conservation Service on-line database and USGS ITIS search; accessed on-line; 01/30/2022.
    World Flora Online; A Project of the World Flora Online Consortium; An Online Flora of All Known Plants - (accessed on-line; 01/30/2022)
    Luc Brouillet 2012, Lotus corniculatus, in Jepson Flora Project (eds.) Jepson eFlora,, accessed on January 30, 2022.
    Invasive Plant Atlas of the United States, - (accessed on-line; 01/30/2022); Lotus corniculatus - (accessed on-line; 01/30/2022).
    Wikipedia contributors. "Lotus corniculatus." Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, 9 Sep. 2021. Web. 30 Jan. 2022.
    Kearney and Peebles 1969, McDougall 1973; Editor: L.Crumbacher 2012; from SEINet Field Guide, on-line; accessed 01/31/2022.
    Seiler, John, Peterson, John, North American species range map courtesy of Virginia Tech, Dept. of Forest Resources & Environmental Conservation
    SEINet synonyms, scientific names, geographic locations, general information.
    Etymology: Michael L. Charters California Plant Names: Latin and Greek Meanings and Derivations; A Dictionary of Botanical and Biographical Etymology - (accessed on-line; 01/31/2022)
    Encyclopaedia Britannica; defininition of the genus Lotus; - (accessed on-line; 01/30/2022)
    IPNI (2020). International Plant Names Index. Published on the Internet, The Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, Harvard University Herbaria & Libraries and Australian National Botanic Gardens. [Retrieved on-line; 30 January 2022].