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

Onobrychis viciifolia Scop.
sainfoin (holy-clover; saintfoin)
Fabaceae (Pea family)

Introduction to Vascular Plants

© Brian Klinkenberg  Email the photographer   (Photo ID #15667)

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Distribution of Onobrychis viciifolia
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Species Information

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Perennial herb from a branched root-crown atop a heavy taproot; stems several, ascending to erect, 20-60 cm tall, tufted, sparsely stiff-hairy.
Alternate, pinnately compound; leaflets 11 to 27, linear-oblong to narrowly elliptic or egg-shaped, abruptly narrowed to a sharp point at the tip, 1-3 cm long, slightly hairy beneath, minutely reddish-dotted above; stipules lanceolate, reddish-brown, papery, 5-12 mm long.
Inflorescence an axillary, dense, spike-like raceme of 10 to 50 pea-like flowers, the stout raceme-stalks longer than the leaves; corollas pink to lavender, lined with reddish-purple, 10-13 mm long, the wings much shorter than the banner or keel; calyces bell-shaped, the 5 awl-shaped teeth twice the length of the long-hairy tube.
Pods, leathery and non-splitting, egg-shaped, 6-8 mm long, hairy, net-ridged, pimply or short-prickly on the flanks; seeds 1.

Source: The Illustrated Flora of British Columbia

USDA Species Characteristics

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

Habitat / Range

Mesic to dry fields, clearings, roadsides and waste places; infrequent in S BC; introduced from Eurasia.

Source: The Illustrated Flora of British Columbia

Additional Notes

Holy-clover is noticeably abundant in disturbed sites (roadsides, open fields, clear cuts) in the southern interior where it often grows intermixed with Medicago sativa and Linaria genistifolia ssp. dalmatica.

Note Author: R. Klinkenberg, June 2009.


Ecological Framework for Onobrychis viciifolia

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) 963 1265 2006
Slope Gradient (%) 0 25 70
Aspect (degrees)
[0 - N; 90 - E; 180 - S; 270 - W]
20 157 326
Soil Moisture Regime (SMR)
[0 - very xeric; 4 - mesic;
8 - hydric]
2 3 4
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: ESSF(2), IDF(8)


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

Hedysarum onobrychis L.
Onobrychis sativa Lam.
Onobrychis viciaefolia Scop. [orthographic variant]

Taxonomic and Nomenclatural Links

Additional Photo Sources

General References