Desert regions, pastures, crop borders, irrigation channels, and roadsides
Native to Europe, Central Asia, China, Japan, and North Africa; widespread across the U.S., Alaska, and some parts of Canada
No listed status
This species is
to the Truckee Meadows.
Starting in February, burr clovers produce small yellow flowers that resemble most other flowers in the pea family. The leaflets are dark green and appear in clusters of three giving them a clover-like appearance. The plant is generally a low growing ground cover at 6 to 10 inches but can become erect where the strands are thick reaching a height of 18 to 24 inches. Well-developed plants will produce tightly coiled spiky pods about a quarter-inch in width.
The burr clover may be in the pea family, but don’t expect its pods to look like the snap peas you eat at home. The spiky pods can easily cling to clothing and animal fur.
The genus Medicago is from the Greek word "Medlick" or "medick" meaning alfalfa and the species polymorpha means to have many forms.
The burr clover is high in protein and highly palatable making it a good option for livestock production. Because of its ability to fix nitrogen, it can be useful in soil restoration in well-drained soils.
Burr clover is considered the most valuable nitrogen fixing legume for pasture improvement in Central Chile.
In India, burr clover is used to treat skin diseases.
Here in the Truckee Meadows, burr clovers have been spotted at Ambrose Park.
USDA Plant Database, Medicago polymorpha L., 2021, https://plants.sc.egov.usda.gov/core/profile?symbol=ARAN7
USDA Plant Guide, BURCLOVER, 2021, https://plants.sc.egov.usda.gov/plantguide/pdf/pg_mepo3.pdf
California Invasive Plant Council, Medicago polymorpha, 2021, https://www.cal-ipc.org/plants/profile/medicago-polymorpha-profile/
Southwest Desert Flora, Medicago polymorpha Burclover, 2019, http://southwestdesertflora.com/WebsiteFolders/All_Species/Fabaceae/Medicago%20polymorpha,%20Burclover.html
Image: Harry Rose, https://www.flickr.com/photos/macleaygrassman/45132596201, license https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/, cropped from original.
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