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Sickle Medick

Medicago sativa ssp. falcata

  • Family: Pea Family – Fabaceae (Leguminosae)
  • Growing form: Perennial herb.
  • Height: 20–60 cm (8–25 in.). Stem limp–ascending, short-haired.
  • Flower: Corolla zygomorphic, yellow, 5–8 mm (0.2–0.32 in.) long, fused at base. Petals 5; the upstanding the ‘standard’, the lateral two the ‘wings’, the lower two united to form the ‘keel’, overall shape of corolla being butterfly-like, dropping. Calyx 5-lobed. Stamens 10. A single carpel. Inflorescence an axillary, globose, dense raceme.
  • Leaves: Alternate, stalked, stipulate. Blade with 3 leaflets, terminal leaflet stalked. Leaflets narrowly obovate–linear, usually sharp-pointed, tips with toothed margins. Stipules small, shortly united with stalks.
  • Fruit: Curved–almost straight, indehiscent pod (legume).
  • Habitat: Fields, banks, roadsides, waste ground, rubbish tips, harbours.
  • Flowering time: July–September.

Sickle medick is a subspecies of lucerne (also known as alfalfa, M. sativa). The type species (ssp. sativa) is usually short-lived in the northern climate, but sickle medick has managed to get a foothold in southern Finland. It originally arrived with sailing boats’ ballast soil and has been growing around harbours for such a long time that nowadays it is regarded as being established. Sickle medick’s second coming was as a fodder plant and e.g. green manure in organic farms: the nodules in its roots are able to fix nitrogen from the atmosphere in the soil and make it available to other plants too.

Alfalfa & Medicago x varia

Medicago sativa ssp. sativa & Medicago x varia

Alfalfa also grows wild in Finland as a casual alien on waste ground, around harbours and in dumping areas. It is an important fodder plant and is thought to be the world’s oldest, especially in subtropical and warm temperate areas. Widespread cultivation has not really succeeded in the Finnish climate as, apart from the cold, there is a lack of efficient pollinators: although it is also grown as a plant for honeybees, the European honey bee is not a very suitable pollinator compared to Andrena bees, which are common in the dry areas that are native to the plant. Alfalfa and sickle medick cross-breed together easily in common habitats, often resulting in the multicoloured hybrid M. x varia. Cultivation varieties have also been developed from hybrids, and these are commonly grown in e.g. central Europe, from where most of the plants that are sometimes found in Finland have travelled.

Toothed Medick & Spotted Medick

Medicago polymorpha & Medicago arabica

NOT TRANSLATED YET. Piikkimailanen on meillä harvinainen, yksivuotinen, rento, keltakukkainen mailaslaji, jonka parhaiten erottaa hedelmävaiheessa muista hernekasveista kierteisen ja piikkisen palkonsa avulla. Piikkimailasta muistuttava laikkumailanen erottuu piikkimailasesta mustalaikkuisten lehtiensä perusteella.

Other species from the same genus
Other species from the same family

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