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Perennial herb from a long taproot; stems erect to decumbent, 30-100 cm tall/long, slender, finely stiff-hairy to glabrous.
Alternate, pinnately compound; leaflets 3, elliptic-oblanceolate to lance-oblong, 1-4 cm long, saw-toothed towards the rounded to squared-off, needle-pointed tip, sparsely to densely short-hairy, the terminal leaflet stalked; stipules entire, linear-lanceolate, not sheathing, 4-12 mm long.
Inflorescence a compact, head-like to cylindric, axillary raceme of (7) 20 to 80 (100) pea-like flowers, the racemes 1-4 cm long on stalks about equal to or longer than the leaves; corollas bluish-purple, occasionally pink to yellow or whitish, 7-10 mm long, the banner distinctly longer than the wings and keel; calyces a little shorter than the corollas, the awl-shaped teeth slightly longer than the tube.
Pods, linear-oblong, coiled in 2 to 3 spirals or slightly curved or sickle-shaped, strongly net-veined but not armed, hairy or glabrous, 2-15 mm long; seeds several to 20.
Two subspecies occur in BC. Fertile hybrids are reported to be fairly frequent, with flowers that range from yellow to purple, often with a metallic sheen.
1. Flowers blue, rarely pink or white; pods spirally coiled, 2-4 mm long; leaflets usually 2-4 cm long................... ssp. sativa
1. Flowers yellow, rarely violet; pods merely curved, 10-15 mm long; leaflets usually 1-2 cm long.................... ssp. falcata (L.) Arcang. (sickle medic, yellow lucerne)
Source: The Illustrated Flora of British Columbia