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Greater Birdsfoot Trefoil

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A much larger version of the common birdsfoot trefoil found in damp woodland, meadows and ditches.



Photograph by: 
Peter Orchard

Great Birdsfoot Trefoil: the error of my ways

Post date: Wednesday, 30 November, 2016 - 20:41

I have been interested in recording flowers, along with other forms of wildlife, for many, many years but it was only comparatively recently I discovered that in addition to the common birdsfoot trefoil there is an equally common greater birdsfoot trefoil (Lotus pedunculatus). I find it hard to believe that for so many years I may have been making a fundamental error; there are far more complex identification issues that one get easily wrong but surely not between these two?

The flowers of both species are very similar although in greater birdsfoot trefoil they are, perhaps, a slightly dull yellow whereas in common birdsfoot trefoil they verge towards an orange-yellow. The main and obvious differences are in the rest of the plant. It is a much larger plant, hence 'greater', a bit straggly and has larger, darker leaves. 

Although quite different when you take a look at the two there is a key difference I have not mentioned. Common birdsfoot trefoil thrives in short grass on dry soils whereas its greater cousin likes damp conditions; ditches, marshes, damp woodland rides and so on, All in all, no excuse for making a fundamental mistake here I think!


The records for this species have been organised into reports, charts, maps and photos. Click a pic below to see the detail:

Sites List Distribution Map Distribution Map Some Charts Some Photographs Original Tweets Relatives Guidance Notes
Common Name Greater Birdsfoot Trefoil
Scientific Name Lotus pedunculatus
Family Pea family - Leguminosae
Status Locally common
Interest Level
Species Family Pea Family - Fabaceae
Flower Colour Group Yellow
  • 06 - June
  • 07 - July
  • 08 - August
Preferred Environment
Look for Yellow, sometimes tinged orange, pea flowers on a sprawling plant in damp places
Additional Identification Notes

This species is often found in these habitats:

Habitat(s) Relationship
GR: Rush & Purple Moor Grass Associated
FD: Ditches and streams Associated