Birdsfoot trefoil (Lotus corniculatus)


Appearance: Perennial herbaceous plant, 12 - 24" tall; the clover-like plant has a sprawling growth pattern.

Leaves: Three clover-like leaflets on a short stem with two additional leaflets at the base of the stem.

Flowers: Yellow pea-like flowers occur typically in flat-topped clusters of 3 -12, 0.5" long flowers which are sometimes tinged with red. Blooms most of the summer.

Seeds: One-inch long brown seed pods are produced in clusters, resembling a bird's foot.

Ecological Threat:

  • Birdsfoot trefoil forms dense mats choking and shading out most other vegetation.
  • It grows best in the Midwest and is most problematic in prairies and disturbed open areas, such as roadsides.
  • Prescribed burns increase seed germination making it troublesome in native prairies.
  • This European species has been introduced to the U.S. and Canada for livestock forage and erosion control along roadsides. It is still sold commercially.


Control Methods:


  • Mowing frequently at a height of less than 2" for several years, (this will be stressful to native plants as well)


  • Spot spraying affected areas, (after re-greening from a burn or mowing), with clopyralid + surfactant + dye. (This selective herbicide also affects native plants of the sunflower and pea families.)


Native Substitutes:

Additional Resources