homebanner homebanner homebanner homebanner homebanner homebanner
Lotus corniculatus - L.
Common Name Bird's Foot Trefoil
Family Fabaceae or Leguminosae
USDA hardiness 3-8
Known Hazards All parts of the plant are poisonous, containing cyanogenic glycosides(hydrogen cyanide)[65, 76]. In small quantities, hydrogen cyanide has been shown to stimulate respiration and improve digestion, it is also claimed to be of benefit in the treatment of cancer. In excess, however, it can cause respiratory failure and even death. This species is polymorphic for cyanogenic glycosides[218]. The flowers of some forms of the plant contain traces of prussic acid and so the plants can become mildly toxic when flowering[218]. They are completely innocuous when dried[218].
Habitats Pastures and sunny banks of streams, especially on calcareous soils[7, 13, 17].
Range Europe, including Britain, from Scandanavia south and east to N. Africa and temperate Asia.
Edibility Rating  
Other Uses  
Weed Potential Yes
Medicinal Rating  
Fully Hardy Well drained soil Moist Soil Full sun

Bloom Color: Yellow. Main Bloom Time: Early summer, Late spring. Form: Irregular or sprawling.

Lotus corniculatus Bird

Lotus corniculatus Bird
Physical Characteristics
 icon of manicon of flower
Lotus corniculatus is a PERENNIAL growing to 0.3 m (1ft) by 0.5 m (1ft 8in) at a medium rate.
It is hardy to zone (UK) 5. It is in flower from Jun to September, and the seeds ripen from Aug to October. The flowers are hermaphrodite (have both male and female organs) and are pollinated by Bees.The plant is self-fertile.
It can fix Nitrogen.
It is noted for attracting wildlife.
Suitable for: light (sandy), medium (loamy) and heavy (clay) soils, prefers well-drained soil and can grow in nutritionally poor soil. Suitable pH: acid, neutral and basic (alkaline) soils. It cannot grow in the shade. It prefers dry or moist soil. The plant can tolerate maritime exposure.


 Lawn; Meadow;
Edible Uses
Edible Parts: Seedpod.
Edible Uses:

The young seedpods are 'nibbled'[177]. Caution is advised, see notes above on toxicity.
Medicinal Uses

Plants For A Future can not take any responsibility for any adverse effects from the use of plants. Always seek advice from a professional before using a plant medicinally.

Antiinflammatory;  Antispasmodic;  Cardiotonic;  Carminative;  Febrifuge;  Hypoglycaemic;  Restorative;  Sedative;  
Tonic;  Vermifuge.

Carminative, febrifuge, hypoglycaemic, restorative, vermifuge[178]. The flowers are antispasmodic, cardiotonic and sedative[7]. The root is carminative, febrifuge, restorative and tonic[218]. The plant is used externally as a local anti-inflammatory compress in all cases of skin inflammation[7].
Other Uses
Dye;  Green manure.

An orange-yellow dye is obtained from the flowers[74]. A useful green manure plant, fixing atmospheric nitrogen[7]. It is difficult to see this plant as a useful green manure, it is fairly slow growing with us and does not produce much bulk[K].
Cultivation details
Landscape Uses:Border, Erosion control, Rock garden. Requires a well-drained soil in a sunny position[200]. Dislikes shade[200]. Does well on poor soils[61]. An important food plant for many caterpillars[30]. It is also a good bee plant[74], the flowers providing an important source of nectar[240]. The flowers are powerfully scented, even though they are able to pollinate themselves[245]. The plant spreads very freely at the roots[1]. This species has a symbiotic relationship with certain soil bacteria, these bacteria form nodules on the roots and fix atmospheric nitrogen. Some of this nitrogen is utilized by the growing plant but some can also be used by other plants growing nearby[200]. Special Features:Attracts butterflies.
Pre-soak the seed for 24 hours in warm water and then sow in the spring or autumn in situ. The seed usually germinates in 2 - 4 weeks at 15°c. If seed is in short supply, it can be sown in pots in a cold frame. When they are large enough to handle, prick the seedlings out into individual pots and plant them out in late spring or early summer.

Books by Plants For A Future

Other Names
Found In
Weed Potential

Right plant wrong place. We are currently updating this section. Please note that a plant may be invasive in one area but may not in your area so it’s worth checking.

Conservation Status
IUCN Red List of Threatened Plants Status :
Related Plants
Latin NameCommon NameEdibility RatingMedicinal Rating
Diospyros lotusDate Plum51
Lotus edulis 30
Lotus halophilusGreater Bird's Foot Trefoil10
Lotus tetragonolobusAsparagus Pea, Winged pea30
Lotus uliginosusGreater Bird's Foot Trefoil00
Melilotus albusWhite Melilot22
Melilotus altissimusTall Melilot, Tall yellow sweetclover20
Melilotus elegansElegant sweetclover10
Melilotus indicusAnnual Yellow Sweetclover12
Melilotus officinalisMelilot, Sweetclover23
Melilotus suaveolensSweetclover11
Melilotus wolgicusSweetclover10
Nelumbo luteaAmerican Water Lotus, American lotus41
Nelumbo nuciferaSacred Water Lotus, Sacred lotus43
Plant Suppliers: Click here for a List

      You can download this page as a PDF

Due to a fault in the PDF printer we are trying a few different options. Please try the one below


Print Friendly and PDF
Expert comment
Botanical References
Links / References
For a list of references used on this page please go here
Readers comment
Elizabeth H.
Peter C Horn Thu Sep 28 2006
Although the plant has medicinal uses, it has no history in Gt Britain as a medicinal herb. It does not appear in the Anglo-Saxon Herbals, or later Herbals such as Culpeper, Gerard down to Mrs Grieve (1931). Nor does the plant appear in Turner's 'Names of Plants.'This is strange considering that the plant is a very common native of England.
QR Code

What's this?

This is a QR code (short for Quick Response) which gives fast-track access to our website pages. QR Codes are barcodes that can be read by mobile phone (smartphone) cameras. This QR Code is unique to this page. All plant pages have their own unique code. For more information about QR Codes click here.

1. Copy and print the QR code to a plant label, poster, book, website, magazines, newspaper etc and even t-shirts.
2. Smartphone users scan the QR Code which automatically takes them to the webpage the QR Code came from.
3. Smartphone users quickly have information on a plant directly for the pfaf.org website on their phone.
Add a comment/link

If you have important information about this plant that may help other users please add a comment or link below. Only comments or links that are felt to be directly relevant to a plant will be included. If you think a comment/link or information contained on this page is inaccurate or misleading we would welcome your feedback at admin@pfaf.org. If you have questions about a plant please use the Forum on this website as we do not have the resources to answer questions ourselves.

* Please note: the comments by website users are not necessarily those held by PFAF and may give misleading or inaccurate information.

To leave a comment please Register or login here All comments need to be approved so will not appear immediately.

Subject : Lotus corniculatus  

Plant Uses

Edible Uses
Medicinal Uses
Other Plant uses
Woodland Gardening
Why Perennial Plants?
Top Edible Plants
Top Medicinal Plants
Garden Design

Twiter      Facebook


Content Help
Support Us
Old Database Search
About Us
Sign In

PFAF Newsletter

Stay informed about PFAFs progress,
challenges and hopes by signing up for
our free email ePost. You will receive
a range of benefits including:
* Important announcements and news
* Exclusive content not on the website
* Updates on new information &
functionality of the website & database

We will not sell or share your email address.
You can unsubscribe at anytime.