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

Medicago sativa (yellow alfalfa; alfalfa)

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Bee Flower Color [1]  Blue
Flower Color [2]  Purple
Foliage Color [2]  Green
Fruit Color [2]  Brown
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
Flower Conspicuous [2]  Yes
Height [3]  39 inches (1 m)
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
Screening - Summer [2]  Moderate
Screening - Winter [2]  Porous
View Plants For A Future Record : Medicago sativa

Protected Areas




Institutions (Zoos, etc.)

Institution Infraspecies / Breed 
Svalbard Global Seed Vault


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External References

USDA Plant Profile



Attributes / relations provided by
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