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Bird's-foot Trefoil

Common Name: Bird’s-foot Trefoil.

Scientific Name: Lotus Corniculatus.

What to look for?  Bright yellow flowers sitting above a mass of green vegetation! The corolla of five yellow petals has an interesting butterfly-like shape. The flowers are replaced by linear seedpods in the fall, which have the appearance of the foot of a bird (hence, its name). Bird’s-foot Trefoils are perennials with slender, green stems that are approximately one to two feet tall. The green leaves are trifoliate (having three leaflets) in appearance and have long petioles (the stalk that joins a leaf to a stem). Collectively, Bird’s-foot Trefoils form large masses of green (stems and leaves) and yellow (flower petals) across the landscape next to our pathways.

Where can they be found at Carillon Stonegate Pond? From late spring and through summer, you can find the Bird’s-foot Trefoil around the walking path going north along Carillon Stonegate Ponds and the fields adjacent to the woodlands.

How big are they? Bird’s-foot Trefoil is very variable in size. These plants may grow from several inches to as much as two feet tall. The leaves are up to ¾ of one inch long and ½ inch across. Each yellow flower is about ½ inch across.

Where do they grow and thrive? Bird’s-foot Trefoil is not native to the U.S. and is believed to have been introduced from Europe. It is, however, found in most of the U.S. and southern Canada. The plants have been used in the past to rejuvenate agricultural lands, and to prevent soil erosion along banks near highways and ditches. The Bird’s-foot Trefoil thrives in a variety of habitats including fields, pastures, roadside embankments, slopes of drainage ditches, and miscellaneous waste areas. The invasive potential of this weed appears to be above average because it often forms dense colonies that tend to exclude other plants.

When do they bloom? The blooming period of the Bird’s-foot Trefoil occurs from May through the first frost.

Do birds, insects or other wildlife associate with this plant? Bird’s-foot Trefoil is valuable as a larval food plant for many moths and butterflies. Various long-tongued bees are the primary pollinators of the flowers. And Bird’s-foot Trefoil is choice food for Canada goose and deer.

Interesting Facts About the Bird's-foot Trefoil:

  • Bird’s-foot Trefoil grow throughout Illinois but are less common in the southern portion of the state.

  • Bird's-foot Trefoil is used along roadsides to control wind and water erosion.

  • It can thrive on poorer soils because it has a very deep (up to three feet deep) tap root to find moisture.

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

For more information on the Bird’s-foot Trefoil and sources of information used in this blog (these are several of the sources that I am using to learn as I blog), please visit Illinois Wildflowers, U.S. Wildflowers, Minnesota Wildflowers, and U.S. Department of Agriculture.

The Carillon at Stonegate community is very fortunate to have a variety of wetland, forest and prairie environments conducive to a variety of birds and other wildlife, insects and plants. Our community and the Kane County Forest Preserve do an exceptional job in maintaining this natural environment – both for the benefit of the birds and wildlife and for our residents to enjoy.


Take a hike and see what you can find – and identify!

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