E-Flora BC: Electronic Atlas of the Flora of British Columbia

Lotus corniculatus L.
birds-foot trefoil (bird's-foot trefoil)
Fabaceae (Pea family)

Introduction to Vascular Plants

© Larry Halverson  Email the photographer   (Photo ID #81472)

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Distribution of Lotus corniculatus
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Species Information

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Perennial herb from a rhizome; stems numerous, prostrate to trailing and often rooting at the nodes, to 60 cm long, glabrous to soft-hairy.
Alternate, pinnately compound; leaflets 5, the lowest pair basal, somewhat stipule-like, short-stalked, nearly equal in size and shape to the 3 terminal leaflets, which are elliptic to egg-shaped, 5-15 mm long, usually minutely toothed and fringed with soft hairs; leaf axis 2-5 mm long, flattened; stipules tiny, gland-like.
Inflorescence a compact, stalked, axillary umbel of 2 to 8 pea-like flowers, the umbel-stalks stout, to 8 cm long; corollas yellow, often tinged with red, 8-15 mm long; calyces 1/3-1/2 as long as the corollas, hairy or glabrous, the linear to lanceolate teeth shorter than to as long as the tube.
Pods, narrowly oblong, 2-4 cm long; seeds 10 to 25, brownish-black, 1.5 mm long.

Source: The Illustrated Flora of British Columbia

USDA Species Characteristics

Flower Colour:
Blooming Period:
Early Spring
Fruit/Seed characteristics:
Colour: Brown
Present from Spring to Summer
Source:  The USDA

Habitat / Range

Moist to dry roadsides, waste places, pastures and lawns in the lowland, steppe and montane zones; infrequent but increasing in S BC; introduced from Eurasia.

Source: The Illustrated Flora of British Columbia


Ecological Framework for Lotus corniculatus

The table below shows the species-specific information calculated from
original data (BEC database) provided by the BC Ministry of Forests and Range.
(Updated August, 2013)

Site Information
Value / Class




Elevation (metres) 122 671 1147
Slope Gradient (%) 0 21 45
Aspect (degrees)
[0 - N; 90 - E; 180 - S; 270 - W]
90 196 270
Soil Moisture Regime (SMR)
[0 - very xeric; 4 - mesic;
8 - hydric]
1 2 8
Modal Nutrient Regime
Number of field plots
 species was recorded in:
Modal BEC Zone Class
All BEC Zones (# of stations/zone) species was recorded in: CDF(2), IDF(1), PP(2)


The climate type for this species, as reported in the: "British Columbia plant species codes and selected attributes. Version 6 Database" (Meidinger et al. 2008), is not evaluated, unknown or variable.

Synonyms and Alternate Names

Lotus corniculatus var. arvensis (Schkuhr) Ser. ex DC.
Lotus corniculatus var. ciliatus (Ten.) W.D.J. Koch
Lotus corniculatus var. tenuifolius L.

Taxonomic and Nomenclatural Links

Additional Photo Sources

General References