Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Bird's Foot Trefoil/Kællingetand

Lotus corniculatus

Lotus corniculatus, Bird's-Foot Trefoil is native to Eurasia and North Africa, but it grows in most of Europe and also in Denmark, where its Danish name Kællingetand means "Old Woman's Tooth". It is a perennial herbaceous plant, similar in appearance to some clovers. The name Bird's Foot Trefoil refers to the appearance of the seed pods on their stalk. It can survive fairly close grazing, trampling and mowing and is most often found in sandy soils. It flowers from June until September.It is also known in cultivation in North America as Birdfoot Deervetch. It has become an invasive species in some regions of North America and Australia.

The plant has many common English names in Britain, but they are now mostly out of use. The names were often connected with the yellow and orange colour of the flowers, fx "eggs and bacon" or "butter and eggs". A double flowered variety is grown as an ornamental plant. It is used in agriculture as a forage plant. In the beginning of the 1800s it was cultivated at a farm in Mid Jutland, but was given up and first cultivated again from the 1880s. The plant was mentioned in 1910 as the only one, which could replace the red clover, and in perennial grass fields it was indispensable. But many farmers did not acknowledge this.

The plant is an important nectar source for many insects and is also used as a larval food plant by many species opf lepidoptera such as Six-spot Burnet.

Fresh Birds Foot Trefoil contains cyanogenic glycosides and is thus poisonous to humans.

The plant is one of the few flowers in the language of flowers that has a negative connotation, symbolizing revenge or retribution.

In folk medicine Birds Foot was dried and put on snaps or in tea, this was used as a stomach medicine. The roots were used as a blood cleansing remedy.

The plant gives a fine yellow in yarn dyeing.

Source: Folk og Flora, Dansk Etnobotanik 3, V.J.Brøndegaard

photo Stigsholm Sø 24. May 2009: grethe bachmann

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