Black Medick

Photo of black medick closeup of cloverlike yellow flowerhead
Scientific Name
Medicago lupulina
Fabaceae (beans; peas)

A prostrate, spreading annual. Flowers terminal, in dense rounded clusters, very small, yellow, in the typical configuration of members of the pea family. Blooms March–November. Leaves alternate, compound with 3 leaflets to ¾ inch long, the leaflets shallowly toothed. Stems usually angled or square, with soft hairs. Fruits a tiny, coiled, 1-seeded pod, almost black.

There are 5 species of Medicago in Missouri, including Medicago sativa (alfalfa) and 3 species of bur clover.


Height: to 20 inches.

Where To Find
image of Black Medick Distribution Map

Statewide; introduced from Eurasia.

Occurs in fields, lawns, waste places, and along roads and railroads. A native of Eurasia and Africa, introduced and naturalized across much of North America. Black medick probably has nothing to do with medicine; its name comes from the genus name, Medicago. It is a nutritious but low-yielding legume for grazing animals and is not much planted in our area.

Like other legumes, this plant fixes nitrogen in the soil, and although it is usually considered a weed, it helps to bind and improve disturbed soils, and bees harvest nectar from the flowers to make honey.

Although it is not much planted as a pasture crop, that doesn't mean herbivores don't eat it. Wild herbivores such as woodchucks, deer, mice, and others nibble the foliage. Also, the alfalfa butterfly is named for its larval diet of plants in the genus Medicago.

Media Gallery
Similar Species
About Wildflowers, Grasses and Other Nonwoody Plants in Missouri
A very simple way of thinking about the green world is to divide the vascular plants into two groups: woody and nonwoody (or herbaceous). But this is an artificial division; many plant families include some species that are woody and some that are not. The diversity of nonwoody vascular plants is staggering! Think of all the ferns, grasses, sedges, lilies, peas, sunflowers, nightshades, milkweeds, mustards, mints, and mallows — weeds and wildflowers — and many more!