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Medicago lupulina
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Plantae
Division: Magnoliophyta
Class: Magnoliopsida
Order: Fabales
Family: Fabaceae
Subfamily: Faboideae
Tribe: Trifolieae
Genus: Medicago
Species: M. lupulina
Binomial name
Medicago lupulina
L., 1753

Medicago lupulina L. (Black Medic, sometimes spelled Medick or Meddick) is a summer annual or perennial plant sometimes considered a weed. It has a tap root. Like other legumes, it has three leaflets; its center leaflet is on a separate petiole. As with other legumes, nitrogen-fixing bacteria, known as rhizobia, are found in nodules on the roots.

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Description

Medicago lupulina is an annual or bi-annual plant, sometimes long-lived thanks to adventitious buds on the roots. The plant measures from 15 to 60 cm in height, with fine stems often lying flat at the beginning of growth and later erecting. The nodes bear three leaves, carried by a long petiole and have oval leaflets, partially toothed towards the tip. This species has very small yellow flowers are grouped in tight bunches. The fruit is a pod that does not open upon maturation, of a little arched form and bearing a single seed.

Note that it is sometimes confused with other legumes bearing small yellow flower heads, such as the Hop Trefoil or Lesser Hop Trefoil.

Distribution

This plant can be seen through the old world: all of Europe, a great part of Asia, including China, Korea and Taiwan, as well as the Indian sub-continent, North Africa, the islands of the Atlantic (the Canaries, Madeira) and throughout the United States, including Hawaii.

It thrives in dry limestone grounds and coastal sand dunes, where it suffers less competition from the other plants. It is relatively cold resistant and can be seen in mountains up to 1800m.

Use

Medicago lupulina is sometimes used as a fodder plant. While being of good value, it isn't a very productive fodder. It is sometimes used in the composition of artificial meadows, especially when implanted in dry lands. It is a common sight in natural pastures. It is also one of the flowers that can be used to create honey.

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