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Birdsfoot trefoil

Quick facts

Birdsfoot trefoil is an invasive species. It should be reported.

  • Birdsfoot trefoil is found in prairies and open areas, such as roadsides.

  • It forms dense mats, choking and shading out most other vegetation.

  • Prescribed burns increase germination, making it troublesome in native prairies.

  • See the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources recommendations for reporting invasive species.
close up of yellow birdsfoot trefoil flower

How to identify birdsfoot trefoil

  • Perennial herbaceous forb, 12–24 inches tall.
  • The clover-like plant has a sprawling growth pattern.
  • It can reach up to 2 feet long.

Stem

  • Stem can be either lying along the ground or semi-erect.
  • Mostly hairless with many alternate branches.

Leaves

  • Three clover-like compound leaflets (1/2 inch long) on a short stem with two additional stalkless leaflets at the base of the stem.

Flowers

  • Yellow, pea-like, 1/2-inch-long flowers, typically in flat-topped clusters of 2–12, sometimes tinged with red.
  • Blooms most of the summer.

Seeds

  • 1"-long brown-black seed pods (1-1/2 to 3-1/2 inches long) are produced in clusters, resembling a bird’s foot.

Roots

  • Taproot
close up of birdsfoot trefoil three leaf cluster
Birdsfoot trefoil have three compound leaflets
Birdsfoot trefoil yellow and pink flower cluster
Birdsfoot trefoil flowers

 

Angela Gupta, Extension educator; Amy Rager, Extension educator; Megan M. Weber, Extension educator

Reviewed in 2019

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