Herbs & Plants

Medicago lupulina

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Botanical Name : Medicago lupulina
Family: Fabaceae
Subfamily: Faboideae
Tribe: Trifolieae
Genus: Medicago
Species: M. lupulina
Kingdom: Plantae
Order: Fabales

Common Names ;Black Hay, Black Nonsuch, Blackweed,  Black Medick

Habitat ;Medicago lupulina 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 grows in grassy places and roadsides, often occurring as a garden weed on acid and calcareous soils

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.


It is hardy to zone 5 and is not frost tender. It is in flower from April to August, and the seeds ripen from July to September. The flowers are hermaphrodite (have both male and female organs) and are pollinated by Bees, Lepidoptera (Moths & Butterflies). The plant is self-fertile. It can fix Nitrogen. It is noted for attracting wildlife.


The plant prefers light (sandy), medium (loamy) and heavy (clay) soils and requires well-drained soil. The plant prefers acid, neutral and basic (alkaline) soils. It cannot grow in the shade. It requires moist soil.

Dislikes acid soils. (This conflicts with the notes on its habitat above.) Dislikes shade. A good food plant for many caterpillars. This species has a symbiotic relationship with certain soil bacteria, these bacteria form nodules on the roots and fix atmospheric nitrogen. Some of this nitrogen is utilized by the growing plant but some can also be used by other plants growing nearby.

Pre-soak the seed for 12 hours in warm water and then sow in spring in situ. The seed can also be sown in situ in autumn. Green manure crops can be sown in situ from early spring until early autumn. (the later sowings are for an over-wintering crop)

Edible Uses:
Edible Parts: Leaves; Seed.

Leaves – cooked. Used as a potherb. A nutritional analysis is available. Seed – cooked. Parched and eaten or ground into a powder. The seed is said to contain trypsin inhibitors. These can interfere with certain enzymes that help in the digestion of proteins, but are normally destroyed if the seed is sprouted first.

Chemical Constituents:
Figures in grams (g) or miligrams (mg) per 100g of food.

*Leaves (Dry weight)
*0 Calories per 100g
*Water: 0%
*Protein: 23.3g; Fat: 3.3g; Carbohydrate: 0g; Fibre: 24.7g; Ash: 10.3g;
*Minerals – Calcium: 1330mg; Phosphorus: 300mg; Iron: 0mg; Magnesium: 450mg; Sodium: 0mg; Potassium: 2280mg; Zinc: 0mg;
*Vitamins – A: 0mg; Thiamine (B1): 0mg; Riboflavin (B2): 0mg; Niacin: 0mg; B6: 0mg; C: 0mg;

Medicinal Uses:
Antibacterial; Lenitive.

Aqueous extracts of the plant have antibacterial properties against micro-organisms. The plant is lenitive.The plant has agents that are capable of easing pain or discomfort.  Legume isoflavones seem to be estrogenic and are believed by some NCI scientists to prevent cancer.

Other Uses:
Green manure.

A good green manure plant, it is fairly deep rooted, has good resistance to ‘Clover rot’ but it is not very fast growing. It can be undersown with cereals, succeeding even in a wet season.

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.

Disclaimer : The information presented herein is intended for educational purposes only. Individual results may vary, and before using any supplements, it is always advisable to consult with your own health care provider.


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