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

Introduction to Vascular Plants


© Brian Klinkenberg     (Photo ID #15667)


E-Flora BC Static Map

Distribution of Onobrychis viciifolia
Click here to view the full interactive map and legend

Species Information

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.

SourceThe Illustrated Flora of British Columbia


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.

USDA Species Characteristics

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


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)
1265 963 2006
Slope Gradient (%)
25 0 70

Aspect (degrees)
[0 - N; 90 - E; 180 - S; 270 - W]

157 20 326
Soil Moisture Regime (SMR)
[0 - very xeric; 4 - mesic;
8 - hydric]
3 2 4
Modal Nutrient Regime
# 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)

Habitat and Range

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

SourceThe Illustrated Flora of British Columbia


Synonyms and Alternate Names:
Hedysarum onobrychis L.
Onobrychis sativa Lam.
Onobrychis viciaefolia Scop. [orthographic variant]

Taxonomic 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.