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Medicago lupulina - Black Medick

Phylum: Magnoliophyta - Class: Equisetopsida - Order: Fabales - Family: Fabaceae

Medicago lupulina

Black Medick is an annual or short-lived perennial plant of wasteland and cultivation. In many ways it resembles other members of the family fabaceae, and in particular Hop Trefoil/Field Clover Trifolium campestre.

Description

This plant has trefoil leaves each with a tiny point at the tip - see picture below:

Leaf tip of Black Medick

This feature helps differentiate Black Medick from the less hairy Hop Trefoil whose leaves have rounded tips without a 'spike'.

The individual flowers are 2-3mm across. Black Medick has tiny yellow florets with up to fifty flowers in each head. Its growing form is mainly prostrate, but at maturity stems may become more erect and can reach a height of 50cm and occasionally 80cm.

Habitat

Black Medick is often found on roadside verges, field margins and well-trodden paths beside rivers and lakes.

Distribution

Medicago lupulina is widespread and common throughout the UK and Ireland except in the far north, and it is fairly common throughout most of Europe. The plant is sometimes cultivated, particularly in the Mediterranean region where it also occurs, as a source of animal fodder.

Medicago lupulina, southern France

Etymology

The genus name Medicago refers to the region of Iran known as Media, where this plant was thought to have originated. The specific epithet lupulina means 'wolf-like' - a reference to the floweris of the hop Humulus lupulus, which its inflorescence resembles.

The 'Black' in the common name refers to the colour of the seeds.

Flowering times

In Britain and Ireland Black Medick can be seen blooming from April right through to October.


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