Birdfoot Deer-vetch
Lotus corniculatus
Family: Fabaceae, Pea
Genus: Lotus

General: perennial with numerous trailing to ascending, and
often nodally rooting, almost hairless to woolly-hairy stems,
10-40 cm tall, often growing in colonies.

Leaves: alternate, stalkless, with 5 leaflets, the lowest
pair basal, the 3 terminal leaflets supported on a short stalk
2-5 mm long, rather definitely flattened, the blades nearly
equal in size and shape, elliptic to obovate, 5-17 mm long,
2-7 mm broad, and usually minutely sharp-toothed and with
some long hairs on the edges. Stipules glandlike.
Flowers: about 3-15 in head-like umbels on
main flower
stalks 3-12 cm long from the upper leaf axils. The umbels
with a 3-lobed bract at the base. Flowers 8-15 mm long,
yellow but mostly tinged with red. Calyx 5-8 mm long, the
narrowly linear teeth about equal to the tube. Banner almost
round, well upturned. Wings cupped over the keel.
Flowering time: May-September.
Fruits: pods, cylindrical, 20-40 mm long, 2-3 mm broad.
Seeds 10-25, brownish-black, about 1.5 mm long.

Bottomlands or wet places, including lawns, in w. and c.
parts of MT. A European escape, known from ID and from
w. WA and OR, and apparently slowly spreading, more
common in e. U.S.

Medicinal and Poisonous: see below.
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Medicinal Uses:
The flowers of birdfoot deer-vetch are antispasmodic, sedative, and tonic for the heart. The root has agents that relieve and remove gas from the digestive system, are fever-reducing, restorative and tonic. The plant has been used externally as a local anti-inflammatory compress in all cases of skin inflammation.

All parts of birdfoot deer-vetch are poisonous, containing cyanogenic glycosides (hydrogen cyanide). In moderate to larger quantities, this chemical can cause respiratory failure and even death. This species is polymorphic for cyanogenic glycosides. In small quantities, hydrogen cyanide has been found to be a stimulant of respiration and digestion. It has also been claimed to be of benefit in the treatment of cancer. The flowers of some forms of the plant contain traces of prussic acid, and the plants can become mildly toxic when flowering for this reason as well. They are harmless when considering prussic acid when dried.

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