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Medicago polymorpha

Higher Taxonomy
Family: Fabaceae (Leguminosae)View DescriptionDichotomous Key
Habit: Annual to tree. Leaf: generally alternate, generally compound, generally stipuled, generally entire, pinnately veined Inflorescence: generally raceme, spike, umbel or head; or flowers 1--few in axils. Flower: generally bisexual, generally bilateral; hypanthium 0 or flat to tubular; sepals generally 5, generally fused; petals generally 5, free, fused, or lower 2 +- united into keel (see 3, Key to Groups, for banner, wings); stamens 10 or many (or [1], 5, 6, 7, 9), free or fused or 10 with 9 filaments at least partly fused, 1 (uppermost) free; pistil 1, ovary superior, generally 1-chambered, ovules 1--many, style, stigma 1. Fruit: legume, including a stalk-like base (above receptacle) or not. Seed: 1--many, often +- reniform, generally hard, smooth.
Genera In Family: +- 730 genera, 19400 species: worldwide; with grasses, requisite in agriculture, most natural ecosystems. Many cultivated, most importantly Arachis, peanut; Glycine, soybean; Phaseolus, beans; Medicago, alfalfa; Trifolium, clovers; many orns. Note: Unless stated otherwise, fruit length including stalk-like base, number of 2° leaflets is per 1° leaflet. Upper suture of fruit adaxial, lower abaxial. Anthyllis vulneraria L. evidently a waif, a contaminant of legume seed from Europe. Laburnum anagyroides Medik., collected on Mount St. Helena in 1987, may be naturalized. Ceratonia siliqua L., carob tree (Group 2), differs from Gleditsia triacanthos L. in having evergreen (vs deciduous) leaves that are 1-pinnate (vs 1-pinnate on spurs on old stems, 2-pinnate on new stems) with 2--5(8) (vs 7--17) 1° leaflets, commonly cultivated, now naturalized in southern California. Aeschynomene rudis Benth. , Halimodendron halodendron (Pall.) Voss (possibly extirpated), Lens culinaris Medik. are agricultural weeds. Caragana arborescens Lam. only cult. Ononis alopecuroides L. , Sphaerophysa salsula (Pall.) DC. all evidently extirpated. Cercidium moved to Parkinsonia; Chamaecytisus to Cytisus; Psoralidium lanceolatum to Ladeania.
eFlora Treatment Author: Martin F. Wojciechowski, except as noted
Scientific Editor: Martin F. Wojciechowski, Thomas J. Rosatti.
Genus: MedicagoView DescriptionDichotomous Key

Habit: Annual, perennial herb, unarmed, generally hairy. Stem: prostrate to erect. Leaf: subpalmately compound or generally odd-1-pinnate; stipules +- fused to petiole, entire or deeply cut; leaflets 3, generally dentate near tip. Inflorescence: axillary or terminal, raceme, generally umbel- or +- head-like, 1--many-flowered. Flower: calyx lobes +- equal or not; corolla yellow or purple; 9 filaments fused, 1 free. Fruit: indehiscent, reniform or generally spirally coiled 1.5--8 turns (or sickle-shaped or straight), generally prickly. Seed: 1--several.
Etymology: (Greek: Medice, now Media, Asia Minor, source of alfalfa) Note: Medicago muricata possibly naturalized in Carrizo Plain.
eFlora Treatment Author: Martin F. Wojciechowski & Duane Isely
Unabridged Reference: Small & Jomphe 1989 Canad J Bot 67:3260--3294
Medicago polymorpha L.
Habit: Annual, generally glabrous. Stem: prostrate, mat-forming, or ascending, 1--5 dm. Leaf: stipules generally cut +- >= 1/2 width; leaflets generally 10--20 mm, wedge-shaped to obcordate, length 1--2 × width. Inflorescence: 2--6-flowered. Flower: calyx +- 3 mm; corolla 3.5--6 mm, yellow. Fruit: a loose spiral, coiled 2--6 turns, ovate to short-cylindric; gray to black, generally prickly, hairs 0. Seed: several. Chromosomes: 2n=14.
Ecology: Common. Chaparral, oak woodland, streambanks, roadsides, disturbed areas; Elevation: < 1500 m. Bioregional Distribution: CA-FP; Distribution Outside California: widespread in southern United States, warm-temp; native to Mediterranean, Europe. Flowering Time: Mar--Jul Note: Provides spring pasture in California; bur-like fruits lodge in fur.
Synonyms: Medicago hispida Gaertn.; Medicago hispida var. confinis (W.D.J. Koch) Burnat; Medicago hispida var. hispida; Medicago polymorpha L. var. brevispina (Benth.) Heyn; Medicago minima (L.) Bartal. var. brevispina Benth.; Medicago minima subsp. brevispina (Benth.) Ponert
Jepson eFlora Author: Martin F. Wojciechowski & Duane Isely
Index of California Plant Names (ICPN; linked via the Jepson Online Interchange)
View the CDFA Pest Rating page for Medicago polymorpha
Weed listed by Cal-IPC

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Botanical illustration including Medicago polymorpha

botanical illustration including Medicago polymorpha


Citation for this treatment: Martin F. Wojciechowski & Duane Isely 2012, Medicago polymorpha, in Jepson Flora Project (eds.) Jepson eFlora,, accessed on February 05, 2023.

Citation for the whole project: Jepson Flora Project (eds.) 2023, Jepson eFlora,, accessed on February 05, 2023.

Medicago polymorpha
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© 2008 Steve Matson
Medicago polymorpha
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© 2004 Carol W. Witham
Medicago polymorpha
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© 2008 Steve Matson
Medicago polymorpha
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© 2003 Michael Charters
Medicago polymorpha
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© 2006 Steve Matson
Medicago polymorpha
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© 2008 Keir Morse

More photos of Medicago polymorpha in CalPhotos

Geographic subdivisions for Medicago polymorpha:
1. You can change the display of the base map layer control box in the upper right-hand corner.
2. County and Jepson Region polygons can be turned off and on using the check boxes.
map of distribution 1
(Note: any qualifiers in the taxon distribution description, such as 'northern', 'southern', 'adjacent' etc., are not reflected in the map above, and in some cases indication of a taxon in a subdivision is based on a single collection or author-verified occurence).


Data provided by the participants of the  Consortium of California Herbaria.
View all CCH records
All markers link to CCH specimen records. The original determination is shown in the popup window.
Blue markers indicate specimens that map to one of the expected Jepson geographic subdivisions (see left map). Purple markers indicate specimens collected from a garden, greenhouse, or other non-wild location.
Yellow markers indicate records that may provide evidence for eFlora range revision or may have georeferencing or identification issues.

CCH collections by month

Duplicates counted once; synonyms included.
Species do not include records of infraspecific taxa, if there are more than 1 infraspecific taxon in CA.
Blue line denotes eFlora flowering time (fruiting time in some monocot genera).