Medicago lupulina L. - Black Medic, hop clover

Taxonomic position.

Family Leguminosae Endl., genus Medicago L., subgenus Lupularia (Ser.) Grossh.

Biology and morphology.

Annual (rarely perennial) herb. Very polymorphic species with both winter and autumn forms. Plant is low-growing, tap-rooted. Stems are thin, procumbent. The leaves are pinnately trifoliate. Flowers are small, 2.5-3.5 mm long, bright yellow. 15-35 flowers in densely packed raceme. The seeds form in individual pods, which turn black at maturity. Self-pollinated. Reproduction is vegetative and by seeds. The species is characterized by its hard seeds. 2n=16, 32.

Origin and distribution.

Native to Europe and Asia. Distributed throughout Europe (except the Arctic), Western and Eastern Siberia, the Far East, Scandinavia, Northern Africa, Asia Minor, Armenia, Iran, the Indian Himalayas, Central Asia, Japan, North America (not native), and Australia (not native).


The species prefers open habitats with low herbage. Cold-tolerant and especially tolerant of spring frosts and early frosts. Not tolerant to acidic, dewy, heavy soils. In spite of low tolerance to drought, the species produces good seed yields in dry years and good herbage in wet years.

Utilization and economic value.

Introduced into cultivation. Valuable component of complex herbage mixtures. It is known for its high protein, vitamin and microelement content. Characterized by good re-growth after cutting, tolerance to trampling and grazing and long vegetative period (until early frosts). Increases soil fertility. An excellent lawn plant.

Reference citations:

Goncharov P.L., Lubenetc P.A. 1985. Biological Aspects of Alfalfa Cultivating. Novosibirsk: Nauka. 253 p.
Grossheim A.A. 1945. Medicago genus. Flora of the USSR. Vol. 11. Moscow: Leningrad, 129-176.
Khasanov O.H. 1972. Wild species of Alfalfa in Central Asia. Tashkent: Fan. 170 p.
Lesins K.A., Lesins I. 1979. Genus Medicago (Leguminosae). A Taxogenetic study. The Hague (The Netherlands). Dr. W. Junk bv Publisher. 228 p.
Sinskaya E.N. 1950. Alfalfa. Cultural flora of USSR. Vol. 13, Issue 1, 1-344 pp.

© N.I. Dzyubenko


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