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Hill Lotus Lotus humistratus


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Hill Lotus - habit
credit: joedecruyenaere/CCSA

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Alternate name: Foothill Bird's-foot Trefoil

Family: Fabaceae, Pea view all from this family

Description A hairy, matted plant with many small yellow pea flowers, each almost hidden in the axil of a pinnately compound leaf.
Habit: native annual herb; creeping and mat-forming or shrubby and upright.
Height: stems to 18 in (45 cm) long.
Leaf: alternate, irregularly compound, fleshy, hairy; 4-5 leaflets, alternate or opposite or palmate, elliptic or obovate, pointed, .15-0.5 in (4-12 mm) long.
Flower: tiny, yellow, often orange-tinged, solitary, pea-like, to 0.25 in (6 mm) long, held in leaf axil.
Fruit: small oblong pod, hairy, held erect, 0.25-0.5 in (6-12 mm) long, 0.125 in (3 mm) diameter.

Flower February to June.

Habitat Dry and rocky: grasslands, oak, pine, or juniper woodlands, desert scrub, rocky slopes, roadsides, disturbed sites.

Range Native to western U.S., from Oregon and Idaho, south to California, east to Utah and Texas.

Discussion Also called foothill deervetch, hairy deervetch, foothill bird's foot trefoil, hill locust, maresfat, short podded lotus, colchita. This common weed in California is attractive when covered with hundreds of deep yellow flowers. The similar Chilean Birdsfoot Trefoil (L. subpinnatus) has almost no hairs and grows on Californias dry grassy slopes. It is one of nearly 100 plants of various genera also found in Chile and Argentina but not in the intervening thousands of miles. This natural distribution has yet to be satisfactorily explained.