Lotus (genus)

bird's-foot trefoil
Lotus corniculatus
Scientific classification e
Type species
Lotus corniculatus

Between 70–150; see text

  • Anisolotus Bernh. ex Schltdl.
  • Benedictella Maire
  • Dorycnium Mill.
  • Heinekenia Webb ex Christ
  • Pedrosia Lowe
  • Tetragonolobus Scop.

Lotus, a latinization of Greek lōtos (λωτός),[4] is a genus of flowering plants that includes most bird's-foot trefoils (also known as bacon-and-eggs[5]) and deervetches[6] and contains many dozens of species distributed worldwide. Depending on the taxonomic authority, roughly between 70 and 150 are accepted. Lotus is a genus of legumes and its members are adapted to a wide range of habitats, from coastal environments to high altitudes.

The genus Lotus is currently undergoing extensive taxonomic revision. Species native to the Americas have been moved into other genera, such as Acmispon and Hosackia, as in the second edition of The Jepson Manual.

The aquatic plant commonly known as the Indian or sacred lotus is Nelumbo nucifera, a species not closely related to Lotus.


Most species have leaves with five leaflets; two of these are at the extreme base of the leaf, with the other three at the tip of a naked midrib. This gives the appearance of a pair of large stipules below a "petiole" bearing a trefoil of three leaflets – in fact, the true stipules are minute, soon falling or withering.[7] Some species have pinnate leaves with up to 15 leaflets. The flowers are in clusters of three to ten together at the apex of a stem with some basal leafy bracts; they are pea-flower shaped, usually vivid yellow, but occasionally orange or red. The seeds develop in three or four straight, strongly diverging pods, which together make a shape reminiscent of the diverging toes of a small bird, leading to the common name "bird's-foot".


The genus Lotus is taxonomically complex. It has at times been divided into subgenera and split into segregate genera, but with no consistent consensus. P.H. Raven in 1971 is said to have been the first to suggest that the "New World" (American) and "Old World" (African and Eurasian) species did not belong in the same genus. A molecular phylogenetic study in 2000 based on nuclear ribosomal ITS sequences confirmed this view.[1] The New World species have been divided between the genera Hosackia s.str., Ottleya, Acmispon and Syrmatium. A 2006 study, primarily concerned with Old World Lotus species and hence with limited sampling of the American genera, found that they were all monophyletic. The study also supported the view that Dorycnium and Tetragonolobus are not distinct from Lotus at the generic level.[2] More species were added to the 2006 results in 2008, but did not alter the broad conclusions reached before. Clades were identified within Lotus s.str., some of which were significantly different from the sections into which the genus had been divided. However, resolution was incomplete. The results of the analysis were presented in terms of clades and complexes.[3]


Lotus alpinus
Lotus berthelotii
Lotus corniculatus
Lotus maculatus
  • Lotus aegaeus (Griseb.) Boiss.
  • Lotus alpicola (Beck) Miniaev, Ulle & Kritzk.
  • Lotus alpinus Schleich. ex Ramond - alpine bird's-foot-trefoil
  • Lotus angustissimus L. – slender bird's-foot trefoil
  • Lotus anthylloides Vent.
  • Lotus arabicus Sol. ex L.
  • Lotus arenarius Brot.
  • Lotus argyrodes R.P.Murray
  • Lotus arinagensis Bramwell
  • Lotus armeniacus Kit Tan & Sorger
  • Lotus assakensis Coss. ex Brand
  • Lotus australis Andrews – austral trefoil
  • Lotus azoricus P.W.Ball
  • Lotus balticus Miniaev
  • Lotus becquetii Boutique
  • Lotus benoistii (Maire) Lassen
  • Lotus berthelotii Lowe ex Masf. – Canary Islands trefoil
  • Lotus bollei Christ
  • Lotus borbasii Ujhelyi
  • Lotus broussonetii Choisy ex Ser.
  • Lotus brunneri Webb
  • Lotus burttii Borsos
  • Lotus callis-viridis Bramwell & D.H.Davis
  • Lotus callunetorum (Üksip) Miniaev
  • Lotus campylocladus Webb & Berthel.
  • Lotus candidissimus A.Chev.
  • Lotus castellanus Boiss. & Reut.
  • Lotus chazaliei H.Boissieu
  • Lotus compactus Chrtková
  • Lotus conimbricensis Brot.
  • Lotus corniculatus L. – common bird's-foot trefoil, bird's-foot deervetch
  • Lotus creticus L.
  • Lotus cruentus Court
  • Lotus cytisoides L.
  • Lotus × davyae Druce
  • Lotus digii Chrtková
  • Lotus discolor E.Mey.
  • Lotus divaricatus Boiss.
  • Lotus dorycnium L.
  • Lotus drepanocarpus Durieu
  • Lotus dumetorum Webb ex R.P.Murray
  • Lotus dvinensis Miniaev & Ulle
  • Lotus edulis L.
  • Lotus elisabethae Opperman
  • Lotus emeroides R.P.Murray
  • Lotus eremiticus A.Santos
  • Lotus eriophthalmus Webb & Berthel.
  • Lotus garcinii Ser.
  • Lotus gebelia Vent.
  • Lotus germanicus (Gremli) Peruzzi
  • Lotus glaucus Aiton
  • Lotus glinoides Delile
  • Lotus goetzei Harms
  • Lotus graecus L.
  • Lotus halophilus Boiss. & Spruner
  • Lotus hebecarpus J.B.Gillett
  • Lotus hebranicus Hochst. ex Brand
  • Lotus herbaceus (Vill.) Jauzein
  • Lotus hirsutus L.
  • Lotus hirtulus Lowe ex Cout.
  • Lotus holosericeus Webb & Berthel.
  • Lotus hosackioides (Royle ex Benth.) Ali
  • Lotus jacobaeus L.
  • Lotus japonicus L.
  • Lotus jolyi Batt.
  • Lotus komarovii Miniaev
  • Lotus krylovii Schischk. & Serg.
  • Lotus kunkelii (Esteve) Bramwell & D.H.Davis
  • Lotus lalambensis Schweinf.
  • Lotus lancerottensis Webb & Berthel.
  • Lotus lanuginosus Vent.
  • Lotus laricus Rech.f., Aellen & Esfand.
  • Lotus lebrunii Boutique
  • Lotus longisiliquosus R.Roem.
  • Lotus loweanus Webb & Berthel.
  • Lotus macranthus Lowe
  • Lotus macrotrichus Boiss.
  • Lotus maculatus Breitf.
  • Lotus maroccanus Ball
  • Lotus mascaensis Burchard
  • Lotus melilotoides Webb
  • Lotus mlanjeanus J.B.Gillett
  • Lotus mollis Balf.f.
  • Lotus namulensis Brand
  • Lotus norvegicus (Chrtková) Miniaev
  • Lotus nubicus Hochst. ex Baker
  • Lotus olgae Klokov
  • Lotus oliveirae A.Chev.
  • Lotus ononopsis Balf.f.
  • Lotus ornithopodioides L.
  • Lotus pacificus Kramina & D.D.Sokoloff
  • Lotus palustris Willd.
  • Lotus parviflorus Desf. – smallflower bird's-foot trefoil, smallflower trefoil
  • Lotus peczoricus Miniaev & Ulle
  • Lotus pedunculatus Cav. – greater bird's-foot trefoil, marsh bird's-foot trefoil, large bird's-foot trefoil, big trefoil
  • Lotus peregrinus L.
  • Lotus polyphyllos E.D.Clarke
  • Lotus pseudocreticus Maire, Weiller & Wilczek
  • Lotus purpureus Webb
  • Lotus pusillus Medik.
  • Lotus pyranthus P.Pérez
  • Lotus quinatus (Forssk.) J.B.Gillett
  • Lotus racemosus Sessé & Moc.
  • Lotus ramulosus M.E.Jones
  • Lotus rechingeri Chrtková
  • Lotus rectus L.
  • Lotus robsonii E.S.Martins & D.D.Sokoloff
  • Lotus ruprechtii Miniaev
  • Lotus sativus (Hyl.) Büscher & G.H.Loos
  • Lotus schoelleri Schweinf.
  • Lotus sergievskiae Kamelin & Kovalevsk.
  • Lotus sessilifolius DC.
  • Lotus simoneae Maire, Weiller & Wilczek
  • Lotus spartioides Webb & Berthel.
  • Lotus spectabilis Choisy ex Ser.
  • Lotus stepposus Kramina
  • Lotus strictus Fisch. & C.A.Mey.
  • Lotus subbiflorus Lag. – hairy bird's-foot trefoil
  • Lotus subdigitatus Boutique
  • Lotus taitungensis S.S.Ying
  • Lotus tauricus Juz.
  • Lotus tenellus (Lowe) Sandral, A.Santos & D.D.Sokoloff (including Lotus leptophyllus (Lowe) K.Larsen)
  • Lotus tenuis Waldst. & Kit. ex Willd. – narrowleaf trefoil, slender trefoil, creeping trefoil, or prostrate trefoil
  • Lotus tetraphyllus L.
  • Lotus tibesticus Maire
  • Lotus torulosus (Chiov.) Fiori
  • Lotus × ucrainicus Klokov
  • Lotus uliginosus Schkuhr
  • Lotus weilleri Maire
  • Lotus wildii J.B.Gillett
  • Lotus zhegulensis Klokov

Species placed elsewhere

  • Lotus aboriginus = Hosackia rosea
  • Lotus argophyllus = Acmispon argophyllus
  • Lotus argyraeus = Acmispon argyraeus
  • Lotus benthamii = Acmispon cytisoides
  • Lotus crassifolius = Hosackia crassifolia
  • Lotus dendroideus = Acmispon dendroideus
  • Lotus denticulatus = Acmispon denticulatus
  • Lotus grandiflorus = Acmispon grandiflorus
  • Lotus hamatus = Acmispon micranthus
  • Lotus haydonii = Acmispon haydonii
  • Lotus heermannii = Acmispon heermannii
  • Lotus humistratus = Acmispon brachycarpus
  • Lotus incanus = Hosackia incana
  • Lotus junceus = Acmispon junceus
  • Lotus maritimus = Tetragonolobus maritimus
  • Lotus mearnsii = Acmispon mearnsii
  • Lotus micranthus = Acmispon parviflorus
  • Lotus nevadensis = Acmispon decumbens
  • Lotus nuttallianus = Acmispon prostratus
  • Lotus oblongifolius = Hosackia oblongifolia
  • Lotus pinnatus = Hosackia pinnata
  • Lotus procumbens = Acmispon procumbens
  • Lotus rubriflorus = Acmispon rubriflorus
  • Lotus salsuginosus = Acmispon maritimus
  • Lotus stipularis = Hosackia stipularis
  • Lotus tetragonolobus = Tetragonolobus purpureus
  • Lotus wrightii = Ottleya wrightii

Uses and ecology

Pasture with Lotus corniculatus (common bird's-foot trefoil, birds-foot deervetch)

Lotus species are used as food plants by the larvae of some Lepidoptera species. Several species are cultivated for forage, including L. corniculatus, L. glaber, and L. pedunculatus. They can produce toxic cyanogenic glycosides which can be potentially toxic to livestock, but also produce tannins, which are a beneficial anti-bloating compound.

Species in this genus can fix nitrogen from the air courtesy of their root nodules, making them useful as a cover crop. The nodulating symbionts are Bradyrhizobium and Mesorhizobium bacteria. Scientific research for crop improvement and understanding the general biology of the genus is focused on L. japonicus, which is currently the subject of a full genome sequencing project, and is considered a model organism.

Some species, such as L. berthelotii from the Canary Islands, are grown as ornamental plants. L. corniculatus is an invasive species in some regions of North America and Australia.


  1. ^ a b Allan, G.J. & Porter, J.M. (2000). "Tribal delimitation and phylogenetic relationships of Loteae and Coronilleae (Faboideae: Fabaceae) with special reference to Lotus: evidence from nuclear ribosomal ITS sequences". American Journal of Botany. 87 (12): 1871–1881. doi:10.2307/2656839. JSTOR 2656839. PMID 11118424.
  2. ^ a b Degtjareva, G.V.; Kramina, T.E.; Sokoloff, D.D.; Samigullin, T.H.; Valiejo-Roman, C.M. & Antonov, A.S. (2006). "Phylogeny of the genus Lotus (Leguminosae, Loteae): Evidence from nrITS sequences and morphology". Canadian Journal of Botany. 84 (5): 813–830. doi:10.1139/b06-035.
  3. ^ a b Degtjareva, G.V.; Kramina, T.E.; Sokoloff, D.D.; Samigullin, T.H.; Valiejo-Roman, C.M. & Antonov, A.S. (2008). "New data on nrITS phylogeny of Lotus (Leguminosae, Loteae)" (PDF). Wulfenia. 15: 35–49. Retrieved 2018-02-06.
  4. ^ "lotus, n.", Oxford English Dictionary, Oxford: Oxford University Press.
  5. ^ Collins English Dictionary
  6. ^ See Acmispon
  7. ^ C. A. Stace, Interactive Flora of the British Isles, a Digital Encyclopaedia: Lotus.ISBN 90-75000-69-3. (Online version Archived 2011-06-08 at the Wayback Machine)

External links

Media files used on this page

Lotus maculatus.jpg
Author/Creator: unknown, Licence: CC-BY-SA-3.0
Author/Creator: Isidre blanc, Licence: CC BY-SA 4.0
Lotus corniculatus. In Torà (Segarra - Catalunya). To 530 m. altitude
Lotus alpinus01.jpg
Author/Creator: Stef1432 Stéphane TASSON – own photograph, Licence: CC-BY-SA-3.0
Lotus alpinus : Tour de la tête des Toillies au départ de Saint Véran - (Queyras, France)
Lotus Berthelotii.jpg
Author/Creator: JGkatz, Licence: CC BY-SA 3.0
[category: flowers]
Lotus corniculatus- is it W IMG 6819.jpg
Author/Creator: J.M.Garg, Licence: CC BY 3.0
Bird's-foot Trefoil or Birdfoot Deervetch Lotus corniculatus? in Kullu District of Himachal Pradesh, India.