Plantae > Tracheophyta > Magnoliopsida > Fabales > Fabaceae > Medicago > Medicago sativa

Medicago sativa (yellow alfalfa; alfalfa)

Synonyms: Medicago afganica; Medicago grandiflora; Medicago ladak; Medicago mesopotamica; Medicago orientalis; Medicago polia; Medicago praesativa; Medicago sogdiana; Trigonella upendrae
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Height [3]  39 inches (1 m)
Screening - Summer [2]  Moderate
Screening - Winter [2]  Porous
Hardiness Zone Minimum [2]  USDA Zone: 2 Low Temperature: -50 F° (-45.6 C°) → -40 F° (-40 C°)
Light Preference [4]  Mostly Sunny
Soil Acidity [4]  Moderate Acid
Soil Fertility [4]  Intermediate
Soil Moisture [4]  Mostly Dry
Water Use [2]  High
Bee Flower Color [1]  Blue
Flower Color [2]  Purple
Foliage Color [2]  Green
Fruit Color [2]  Brown
Flower Conspicuous [2]  Yes
Bloom Period [2]  Spring
Dispersal Mode [5]  Anemochory
Drought Tolerance [2]  High
Edible [3]  May be edible. See the Plants For A Future link below for details.
Fire Tolerance [2]  High
Flower Type [3]  Hermaphrodite
Frost Free Days [2]  90 days
Fruit/Seed Abundance [2]  High
Fruit/Seed Begin [2]  Summer
Fruit/Seed End [2]  Summer
Growth Form [2]  Single Crown
Growth Period [2]  Spring, Summer, Fall
Growth Rate [2]  Rapid
Hazards [3]  The plant contains saponin-like substances; Eating large quantities of the leaves may cause the breakdown of red blood cells; However, although they are potentially harmful, saponins are poorly absorbed by the human body and so most pass through without harm. Saponins are quite bitter and can be found in many common foods such as some beans. Thorough cooking, and perhaps changing the cooking water once, will normally remove most of them from the food. Saponins are much more toxic to some creatures, such as fish, and hunting tribes have traditionally put large quantities of them in streams, lakes etc in order to stupefy or kill the fish; Alfalfa sprouts (and especially the seeds) contain canavanine. Recent reports suggest that ingestion of this substance can cause the recurrence of systemic lupus erythematosus (an ulcerous disease of the skin) in patients where the disease had become dormant;
Leaf Type [2]  Deciduous
Lifespan [3]  Perennial
Pollinators [3]  Bees, Lepidoptera, Bats
Propagation [2]  Seed
Regrowth Rate [2]  Rapid
Root Depth [2]  24 inches (61 cm)
Seed Spread Rate [2]  Slow
Seed Vigor [2]  High
Seeds Per [2]  226800 / lb (500008 / kg)
Shape/Orientation [2]  Erect
Structure [6]  Herb
Usage [3]  Often grown as a green manure. It is a bit slow to establish in its first year so is generally only recommended for positions where it can remain for 2 or more years. Alfalfa is very vigorous from its second year, producing a huge bulk of material that can be cut down 2 or 3 times during the season; Plants are very deep rooting, descending 6 metres or more into the soil; Alfalfa is a potenially excellent source of biomass. It is possible to produce more than 2 tonnes of protein from the leaves (suitable for human use) per hectare per year. In addition, the plant residues remaining could be used to produce the equivalent of about 10 barrels of oil per year; A yellow dye is obtained from the seed; The fibre of the plant has been used in making paper; The seed yields about 8.5 - 11% of a drying oil. It is used in paints, varnish etc; The plant can be grown as a low dividing hedge in the vegetable garden;
Vegetative Spread Rate [2]  Slow
View Plants For A Future Record : Medicago sativa

Protected Areas

Name IUCN Category Area acres Location Species Website Climate Land Use
Algonquin Provincial Park IV 1868802 Ontario, Canada
Allegheny Portage Railroad Nat'l Hist. Site National Historic Site III 1152 Pennsylvania, United States
Arches National Park II 76539 Utah, United States
Avon Gorge Woodlands 376 England, United Kingdom
Banff National Park II 1690912 Alberta, Canada
Bighorn Canyon National Recreation Area V 36286 Montana, Wyoming, United States
Bolshekhekhtsirsky Zapovednik Ia 112282 Khabarovsk, Russia
Bombay Hook National Wildlife Refuge VI 16363 Delaware, United States
Burnham Beeches 946 England, United Kingdom  
Calvin College Ecosystem Preserve 90 Michigan, United States
Canyonlands National Park II 335430 Utah, United States
Carpathian Biosphere Reserve 144772 Ukraine  
Chippewa Nature Center   Michigan, United States    
Chiricahua National Monument V 1421 Arizona, United States
Colonial National Historic Park National Historical Park V 9316 Virginia, United States
Death Valley National Park II 762125 California, Nevada, United States
Dee Estuary/ Aber Dyfrdwy 39057 England/Wales, United Kingdom
Desecheo National Wildlife Refuge   Puerto Rico, United States
Devils Tower National Monument V 1361 Wyoming, United States
Dorset Heaths 14161 England, United Kingdom
Dorset Heaths (Purbeck and Wareham) and Studland Dunes 5491 England, United Kingdom
Everglades and Dry Tortugas Biosphere Reserve   Florida, United States  
Fort Donelson National Battlefield III 560 Tennessee, United States
Fort Larned National Historic Site III 706 Kansas, United States
Fort Necessity National Battlefield III 1019 Pennsylvania, United States
Fort Union Trading Post National Hist. Site National Historic Site III 24 Montana, United States
Galichia Gora Zapovednik Ia 568 Lipetsk, Russia
Gateway National Recreation Area V 1807 New Jersey, United States
Glacier National Park II 953799 Montana, United States
Grand Canyon National Park II 1210128 Arizona, United States
Great Smoky Mountains National Park II 515454 North Carolina, Tennessee, United States
Great Swamp National Wildlife Refuge VI 3161 New Jersey, United States
Humber Estuary 90582 England, United Kingdom
Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore II 8272 Indiana, United States
Jasper National Park II 2776809 Alberta, Canada
Khopersky Zapovednik Ia 47103 Russia  
Knife River Indian Villages National Hist. Site National Historic Site III 1756 North Dakota, United States
Kootenay National Park II 341762 British Columbia, Canada
Lake Superior Provincial Park IV 351011 Ontario, Canada
Limestone Coast of South West Wales/ Arfordir Calchfaen de Orllewin Cymru 3940 Wales, United Kingdom  
Little Bighorn Battlefield National Monument V 755 Montana, United States
Los Glaciares National Park II 1329020 Santa Cruz, Argentina
Lundy 7573 England, United Kingdom  
Lyme Bay and Torbay 77215 England, United Kingdom
Mammoth Cave Area Biosphere Reserve (Natn'l Park) National Park II 51235 Kentucky, United States
Margate and Long Sands 160406 England, United Kingdom
Mojave and Colorado Deserts Biosphere Reserve 5901 California, United States  
Moray Firth 373987 Scotland, United Kingdom  
Mount Arrowsmith Biosphere Reserve 293047 British Columbia, Canada  
Mount Revelstoke National Park Ia 18 British Columbia, Canada
Nez Perce National Historical Park V 2076 Idaho, United States
Niagara Escarpment Biosphere Reserve 470167 Ontario, Canada  
North Somerset and Mendip Bats 1387 England, United Kingdom
North York Moors 108930 England, United Kingdom
Parco Del Somma-Vesuvio e Miglio D'Oro National Park II 33648 Italy
Pen Llyn a`r Sarnau/ Lleyn Peninsula and the Sarnau 360832 Wales, United Kingdom
Petrified Forest National Park II 44522 Arizona, United States
Pipestone National Monument V 326 Minnesota, United States
Redberry Lake Biosphere Reserve 277252 Saskatchewan, Canada
Reserva de la Biosfera de Urdaibai Biosphere Reserve V 1777 Spain  
Riverland Biosphere Reserve Ia 1490891 South Australia, Australia
Rochdale Canal 63 England, United Kingdom
Salisbury Plain 52975 England, United Kingdom
Saratoga National Historical Park   New York, United States
Sayano-Shushenskiy Biosphere Reserve Ia 964620 Krasnoyarsk, Russia
Scotts Bluff National Monument V 3185 Nebraska, United States
Sefton Coast 11278 England, United Kingdom
Solent Maritime 27985 England, United Kingdom
South Wight Maritime 49082 England, United Kingdom
Southern Appalachian Biosphere Reserve 37548505 North Carolina, Tennessee, United States  
Start Point to Plymouth Sound & Eddystone 84204 England, United Kingdom  
Thorne Moor 4718 England, United Kingdom
Tsentral'no-Chernozemny Biosphere Reserve Ia 13064 Kursk, Russia
Voronezhskiy Biosphere Reserve 95835 Russia  
Western Michigan University's Asylum Lake Preserve 274 Michigan, United States
Yoho National Park II 317576 British Columbia, Canada
Zion National Park II 135667 Utah, United States



Acronicta rumicis (Knot Grass)[7]
Acyrthosiphon kondoi (Bluegreen aphid)[7]
Acyrthosiphon pisum (Pea aphid)[8]
Adelphocoris lineolatus (alfalfa plant bug)[8]
Agromyza frontella (alfalfa blotch leafminer)[8]
Agromyza nana[8]
Agrotis subterranea (granulate cutworm)[7]
Anticarsia gemmatalis (velvetbean caterpillar)[7]
Anzygina sativae[7]
Aphis craccivora (Cowpea aphid)[8]
Aphis loti[8]
Aphis medicaginis[8]
Aporia crataegi (Black-veined White Butterfly)[8]
Aproaerema anthyllidella[8]
Archips argyrospila[7]
Argynnis lathonia <Unverified Name>[8]
Ascotis selenaria (Giant looper)[7]
Asphondylia miki[8]
Aspitates ochrearia[8]
Atrococcus saxatilis[9]
Austroasca alfalfae[7]
Autographa californica (alfalfa looper)[7]
Autographa gamma (Silver Y Moth)[7]
Balclutha incisa[7]
Batracomorphus angustatus[7]
Berytinus signoreti[8]
Branta canadensis (Canada Goose)[7]
Bruchophagus gibbus[8]
Bryobia praetiosa (clover mite)[8]
Byssothecium circinans[7]
Caenurgina erechtea (Forage Looper)[7]
Callistege mi (Mother Shipton Moth)[10]
Cecyropa setigera[11]
Chiasma clathrata <Unverified Name>[8]
Chiasmia clathrata <Unverified Name>[10]
Chlamydatus pullus[8]
Chrysodeixis eriosoma (green garden looper)[11]
Cicadulina bimaculata[7]
Cletus bipunctatus[7]
Closterotomus norvegicus (strawberry bug)[11]
Cnephasia asseclana (Flax Tortrix Moth)[8]
Cnephasia genitalana[8]
Cnephasia incertana (Light Grey Tortrix Moth)[8]
Cnephasia stephensiana (Grey Tortrix Moth)[8]
Coccus hesperidium <Unverified Name>[11]
Colias alexandra (Queen Alexandra's Sulphur)[7]
Colias croceus (Clouded Yellow Butterfly)[10]
Colias electo (African Clouded Yellow)[7]
Colias eurytheme (alfalfa caterpillar)[7]
Colias hyale (Pale Clouded Yellow)[8]
Colias lesbia[7]
Colias phicomone (Mountain Clouded Yellow)[7]
Colias philodice (clouded sulphur)[7]
Contarinia loti[8]
Contarinia medicaginis[8]
Costelytra zealandica[11]
Creontiades dilutus[7]
Cydia medicaginis (Alfalfa moth)[8]
Cynthia cardui[7]
Dasineura lupulinae[8]
Dasineura medicaginis[8]
Dictyotus caenosus[7]
Discestra trifolii (clover cutworm)[7]
Dysmicoccus brevipes (pineapple mealybug)[9]
Empoasca fabae (Potato leafhopper)[7]
Encoptolophus costalis (Dusky Grasshopper)[7]
Eriophyes plicator <Unverified Name>[8]
Erynnis funeralis (funereal duskywing)[7]
Euclidia glyphica (Burnet Companion Moth)[10]
Fabomyia medicaginis[8]
Ferrisia virgata (grey mealybug)[9]
Glaucopsyche alexis (Green-Underside Blue)[7]
Glaucopsyche lygdamus (palos verdes blue butterfly)[12]
Gryllus pennsylvanicus (fall field cricket)[7]
Hada plebeja (Shears)[8]
Helicoverpa armigera (cotton bollworm)[8]
Helicoverpa zea (bollworm)[7]
Heliococcus medicagicola[9]
Heliothis armigera <Unverified Name>[8]
Hemiargus ceraunus (ceraunus blue)[7]
Hesperocharis marchalii[7]
Hypera fuscocinerea <Unverified Name>[8]
Hypera meles[8]
Hypera nigrirostris (lesser cloverleaf weevil)[8]
Hypera postica (Alfalfa weevil)[8]
Hypera punctata (clover leaf weevil)[8]
Issoria lathonia (Queen of Spain Fritillary)[7]
Jaapiella jaapiana[8]
Jaapiella medicaginis <Unverified Name>[8]
Lampides boeticus (bean butterfly)[7]
Lasiocampa trifolii (Grass Eggar)[8]
Lemmiscus curtatus (sagebrush vole)[13]
Leptotes marina (marine blue)[7]
Leptotes pirithous (Lang's Short-tailed Blue)[7]
Lepus californicus (Black-tailed Jackrabbit)[7]
Lepus townsendii (White-tailed Jackrabbit)[14]
Lincolnia lucernina[11]
Liriomyza congesta[8]
Loxostege sticticalis[7]
Lygus lineolaris (tarnished plant bug)[7]
Lygus rugulipennis[8]
Maconellicoccus hirsutus (pink hibiscus mealybug)[9]
Marmota flaviventris (yellow-bellied marmot)[15]
Megachile rotundata (alfalfa leafcutting bee)[7]
Melanoplus bruneri (Bruner's Locust)[7]
Melanoplus femurrubrum (Red-legged Grasshopper)[7]
Merophyas divulsana (Lucerne leafroller)[7]
Microtus townsendii (Townsend's vole)[16]
Morpho helenor[7]
Nezara viridula (Southern green stink bug)[7]
Nicaeana cervina[11]
Nicaeana cinerea[11]
Nymphalis californica (California Tortoiseshell)[7]
Nysius huttoni[11]
Ophiomyia curvipalpis[8]
Otiorhynchus ligustici[8]
Palomena prasina[8]
Peridroma saucia (variegated cutworm)[7]
Petrobia latens[8]
Phenacoccus graminicola (ryegrass mealybug)[9]
Pieris brassicae (Large White)[8]
Planotortrix octo <Unverified Name>[11]
Plathypena scabra (green cloverworm)[7]
Platycoelostoma rauppi <Unverified Name>[9]
Polyommatus ainsae[7]
Polyommatus icarus (Common Blue Butterfly)[10]
Porphyrophora minuta[9]
Praelongorthezia olivicola[9]
Pseudococcus calceolariae (citrophilus mealybug)[9]
Pseudococcus maritimus (grape mealybug)[9]
Pseudococcus sorghiellus (trochanter mealybug)[9]
Pycnonotus cafer (Red-vented Bulbul)[17]
Scopula rubra <Unverified Name>[11]
Scorpaenopsis gibbosa (humpbacked scorpionfish)[7]
Semiothisa clathrata <Unverified Name>[8]
Sidnia kinbergi[11]
Sitona hispidulus (clover-root weevil)[8]
Sitona humeralis[8]
Sitona lineatus (Striped Pea Weevil)[7]
Sitona macularius[8]
Sitona obsoletus[8]
Sitona sulcifrons[8]
Sminthurus viridis (lucerne flea)[8]
Spilosoma virginica (yellow woollybear)[7]
Spodoptera eridania (southern armyworm)[7]
Spodoptera frugiperda (fall armyworm)[7]
Spodoptera ornithogalli (yellowstripe armyworm)[7]
Spodoptera praefica (yellowstripe armyworm)[7]
Streptopelia senegalensis (Laughing Dove)[7]
Strymon melinus (cotton square borer)[7]
Subcoccinella vigintiquattuorpunctata <Unverified Name>[8]
Tathorhynchus exsiccata[8]
Tatochila autodice[7]
Therioaphis trifolii (Spotted alfalfa aphid)[8]
Thorybes pylades (Northern cloudywing skipper)[7]
Thrips obscuratus <Unverified Name>[11]
Trichoplusia ni (cabbage looper)[8]
Trionymus multivorus (polyphagous mealybug)[9]
Trionymus radicicola[9]
Tychius crassirostris[8]
Urocitellus brunneus (Idaho ground squirrel)[18]
Urocitellus columbianus (Columbian ground squirrel)[19]
Ursus arctos (Grizzly Bear)[7]
Wiseana cervinata[11]
Xenotemna pallorana[7]
Zerene cesonia (Dog's head butterfly)[7]
Zerene eurydice (California dogface butterfly)[7]
Zizeeria karsandra (Dark Grass Blue)[7]
Zizeeria knysna[7]
Zizina otis <Unverified Name> (Common blue)[11]
Zizina oxleyi <Unverified Name>[11]


Parasitized by 
Coslenchus costatus[20]
Criconema mutabile <Unverified Name>[20]
Ditylenchus dipsaci (Bud and stem nematode)[20]
Ditylenchus intermedius <Unverified Name>[20]
Ditylenchus triformis <Unverified Name>[20]
Helicotylenchus dihystera <Unverified Name>[20]
Helicotylenchus exallus <Unverified Name>[20]
Hemicycliophora labiata <Unverified Name>[20]
Macroposthonia xenoplax <Unverified Name>[20]
Mesocriconema xenoplax[7]
Peronospora aestivalis[7]
Peronospora trifoliorum[7]
Uromyces pisi-sativi[7]

Institutions (Zoos, etc.)

Institution Infraspecies / Breed 
Svalbard Global Seed Vault


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Attributes / relations provided by
1Arnold SEJ, Faruq S, Savolainen V, McOwan PW, Chittka L, 2010 FReD: The Floral Reflectance Database — A Web Portal for Analyses of Flower Colour. PLoS ONE 5(12): e14287.
2USDA Plants Database, U. S. Department of Agriculture
3Plants For A Future licensed under a Creative Commons License
4ECOFACT 2a Technical Annex - Ellenberg’s indicator values for British Plants, M O Hill, J O Mountford, D B Roy & R G H Bunce (1999)
5Paula S, Arianoutsou M, Kazanis D, Tavsanoglu Ç, Lloret F, Buhk C, Ojeda F, Luna B, Moreno JM, Rodrigo A, Espelta JM, Palacio S, Fernández-Santos B, Fernandes PM, and Pausas JG. 2009. Fire-related traits for plant species of the Mediterranean Basin. Ecology 90: 1420.
Paula S. & Pausas J.G. 2013. BROT: a plant trait database for Mediterranean Basin species. Version 2013.06.
6Kattge, J. et al. (2011b) TRY - a global database of plant traits Global Change Biology 17:2905-2935
7Jorrit H. Poelen, James D. Simons and Chris J. Mungall. (2014). Global Biotic Interactions: An open infrastructure to share and analyze species-interaction datasets. Ecological Informatics.
8Biological Records Centre Database of Insects and their Food Plants
9Ben-Dov, Y., Miller, D.R. & Gibson, G.A.P. ScaleNet 4 November 2009
10Ecology of Commanster
11New Zealand Institute for Plant & Food Research Plant-SyNZ™ database
12Butterflies of Canada, Canadian Biodiversity Information Facility
13Lemmiscus curtatus, Lynn E. Carroll and Hugh H. Genoways, Mammalian Species No. 124, pp. 1-6 (1980)
14Lepus townsendii, Burton K. Lim, MAMMALIAN SPECIES No. 288, pp. 1-6 (1987)
15Predicting seasonal diet in the yellow-bellied marmot: success and failure for the linear programming model, G.P. Edwards, Oecologia (1997) 112:320-330
16Microtus townsendii, John E. Cornely and B. J. Verts, MAMMALIAN SPECIES No. 325, pp. 1-9 (1988)
17Foraging ecology of Red-vented Bulbul Pycnonotus cafer in Haridwar, India, DINESH BHATT and ANIL KUMAR, Forktail 17 (2001), p. 109-110
18Spermophilus brunneus, Eric Yensen and Paul W. Sherman, MAMMALIAN SPECIES No. 560, pp. 1-5 (1997)
19Individual variation in the ability of Columbian ground squirrels to select an optimal diet, MARK E. RITCHIE, Evolutionary Ecology, 1988, 2, 232-252
20Species Interactions of Australia Database, Atlas of Living Australia, Version ala-csv-2012-11-19
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