Birds-foot Trefoil

Botanical name – Lotus coniculatus

Family – Fabaceae

Aliases – Bacon and eggs, crow toes, cats clover, ground honeysuckle

Bird-foot trefoil general information

Birds-foot trefoil

Birds-foot trefoil is common on undernourished turf

Birds-foot trefoil, which is a member of the ‘pea’ family is a herbaceous perennial turf weed. It similar in appearance to many other clover weeds, such as yellow suckling clover (lesser trefoil) and white clover. In agriculture it is a forage plant, commonly used for pastures and hay. It is a popular plant used in wild flower mixtures and can reach a height of nearly 50cm. It is a hardy, wear tolerant plant able to withstand trampling and mowing.

Birds-foot trefoil

Although very common in grassy areas, such as pastures river banks and verges. It can be also be troublesome in lawns and turf, especially those suffering from neglect. It forms as a low growing, mat forming plant and the stems can become woody as they mature and age. Birds-foot trefoil reproduces by seed and creeping stems.

Although it prefers dry, free draining sols, it is not uncommon to find it growing in wet areas too.

Birds-foot trefoil identification


The leaves are alternate, each having 5 leaflets, with 3 upper and 2 lower, each leaftlet measuring between 5-10mm long. They are narrow, often with pointed tips.

Birds-foot trefoil flowers

The yellow (sometimes seen with red streaks) flowers measure between 10-15mm long and resemble pea flowers. They are bourne in cluster and flower from June until October.

This weed gets its name from the up turned seed pods, which resemble a birds claw.

Birds-foot trefoil has a deep tap root, which enables it to thrive in dry, under nourished soils.

Prevention and control of birds-foot trefoil

Encourage a healthy sward with good turf care practices, such as correct feeding, regular aeration and scarifying to help prevent weeds from invading.

Raking the weed prior to mowing will help weaken the weed.

Regular mowing will help prevent seed head formation.

Hand weeding can be difficult as the tap root and penetrate deep into to root zone and prove difficult to remove without breaking it.

Birds-foot trefoil can be controlled with a selective weed killer, however a repeat application may be necessary for satisfactory control. If the infestation is not severe, spot treat the weed to avoid the over use of chemicals.

Recommended products for birds-foot trefoil

Professional products (The user requires the appropriate certificate/s to apply these products)

  • Headland Relay Turf (Mecoprop-p, Dicamba, MCPA)
  • React Ultra (Mecoprop-p, Dicamba, MCPA)
  • Everris Praxys (Clopyralid, Fluroxypyr, Fluosulam)
  • Mascot Greenor (Clopyralid, Fluroxypyr, MCPA)
  • Vitax Esteem (2,4-D, Clopyralid, MCPA)

Products available for non-professional use (These products are available from garden centres and DIY

  • Verdone extra (Clopyralid, Fluroxypyr, MCPA)
  • Resolva lawn weed killer (2,4-D, Mecoprop-p, MCPA, Dicamba)
  • Vitax Lawn Clear (2,4-D, Clopyralid, MCPA)
  • Weedol lawn weed killer (Clopyralid, Fluroxypyr, MCPA)