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)
If more than one illustration is available for a species (e.g., separate illustrations were provided for two subspecies) then links to the separate images will be provided below. Note that individual subspecies or varietal illustrations are not always available.
Illustration Source: The Illustrated Flora of British Columbia
||Value / Class
Moisture Regime (SMR)
[0 - very xeric; 4 - mesic;
8 - hydric]
of field plots
species was recorded in:
BEC Zone Class
All BEC Zones (# of stations/zone) species was recorded in
Source: Klinkenberg 2013
Synonyms and Alternate Names:
Medicago varia Martyn
Medicago ×varia Martyn
Medicago media Pers.
Medicago sativa subsp. varia (Martyn) Arcang.