Trefoil / Deer Vetch

Scientific Name: Lotus (genus)

Fact Box:

  • Order: Fabales
  • Family: Fabaceae
  • Genus: Lotus


With common names ranging from bird’s-foot trefoil to bacon-and-eggs, flowers of the genus Lotus are native to the continents of Europe, Asia, and Africa. Part of the pea family, trefoils have leaves that resemble clovers and flowers that can be white or yellow, with hints of red. Several tubular flowers grow at the top of a stalk from the same spot on the stem but extend out in different directions (also called a whorl). The long, slender seed pods of a trefoil plant protrude so that it looks like a bird’s foot, hence the common name “bird’s-foot trefoil.”


The most widespread kind of trefoil, Lotus corniculatus, is often used as food for livestock and can also be harvested as hay, when mixed with other grasses. Sometimes becoming invasive, the plants can grow in a dense patch, and after being mowed, its flowers will still bloom. Also used to prevent erosion, trefoil grows and spreads from rhizomes.

The seed pod (on the right) looks like a bird’s foot.
Source: Flickr