Burr Clover

Burr Clover (Medicago maculata) is sometimes called Spotted Medick and

sometimes California clover, also Yellow clover. The name burr clover

has doubtless arisen from the closely coiled seed pod, which, being

covered with curved prickles, adhere to wool more or less as burrs do.

The name Spotted Medick has been given because of the dark spot found in

the middle of the leaflets, in conjunction with the family of plants to

which it belongs. The name California clover is given because of the

claim that it was much grown in California after having been introduced

there from Chili, and the name yellow clover, from the color of the

blossoms. After its introduction into the United States, seedsmen sell

California and Southern burr clover as two varieties, but the

correctness of the distinction thus made has been questioned. Many

persons were wont to confuse it with alfalfa, or, as it is frequently

called, lucerne, but the latter is much more upright in its habit of

growth, grows to a greater height, has more blossoms, blue in color, and

seed pods more loosely coiled. It is also to be distinguished from a

variety (Medicago denticulata) which bears much resemblance to it, and

which, growing wild over portions of the plains and foothills of the

West, affords considerable pasture.

Burr clover may properly be termed a winter annual, since the seed comes

up in the autumn, furnishes grazing in the winter and spring, and dies

with the advent of summer. It is procumbent or spreading and branched.

On good soil some of the plants radiate to the distance of several feet

from the parent root. They have been known to overlap, and thus

accumulate until the ground was covered 2 feet deep with this clover,

thus making it very difficult to plow them under. It is only under the

most favorable conditions, however, that the plants produce such a mass

of foliage. The leaves are composed of three somewhat large leaflets.

The flowers, as previously intimated, are yellow, and there are but two

or three in each cluster, but the clusters are numerous; hence, also the

pods are numerous. They are about 1/4 of an inch broad, and when mature

are possessed of considerable food value.

Burr clover grows chiefly during the winter, and is at its best for

pasture during the months of March and April, and in the Gulf States

dies down after having produced seed in May. Though it is frequently

sown, it has the power of self-propagation to a marked degree, which

makes it possible to grow many crops in succession without re-seeding by


It is not considered a good hay plant, but its value for pasture is

considerable, although, as a rule, animals do not take kindly to it at

first, as they do to alfalfa or medium red clover, but later they become

fond of it, but less so, probably, in the case of horses than of other

animals. Being a legume, it is helpful in enriching the land, and being

a free grower, it improves the soil mechanically through its root

growth, and also through the stems and leaves, when these are plowed


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