This section is from the book "Wayside And Woodland Blossoms", by Edward Step. Also available from Amazon: Wayside And Woodland Blossoms: A Guide To British Wild-Flowers.
Though the rambler will find this handsome plant growing apparently wild in the hedgerow and on the borders of fields, he must not too hastily conclude it is a native. The species has been largely grown here as a green fodder plant, for which it is highly esteemed, and it has escaped from the fields and reproduced itself without man's aid. A glance at its flowers will show it is a leguminous plant. Its stems are hollow, branched; its leaves trifoliate, with long-pointed stipules at the base of the leaf-stalk. From the axils of the leaves arise long stalks, whose free ends are crowded with the deep purple (sometimes yellow) flowers. A peculiarity of this genus consists in the seed pod being more or less spirally twisted. In the present species it is downy and has two or three coils. It flowers from May to July.
It has been thought to be a cultivated variety of the next species, M. falcata. The name Medicago is from the old Greek medike, so-called because it was introduced into Greece by the Medes. The following species also occur in this country:
I. Yellow Sickle Medick (M. falcata), with yellow (sometimes violet) flowers, and a flat downy pod coiled in the shape of a sickle or a ring. Dry gravelly banks, old walls and sandy wastes in the Eastern Counties. June and July. This and M. sativa are perennials; the following are annuals:
II. Black Medick or Nonsuch (M. lupulina). So much like Trifolium pro-cumbens, described on p. 49, that farmers have given it the name of Hop-Trefoil, which properly belongs to the latter species, from which this may be easily separated by noting that the black kidney-shaped pods are naked, that is, not wrapped in the dried flower. It should also be observed that the pods are marked by prominent veins running throughout their length. Flowers small, crowded, yellow. Waste grounds and cultivated fields. May to August.
III. Reticulated Medick (M. denticulata). Stems creeping. Leaflets heart-shaped, toothed. Flowers yellow, in umbels. Pod beautifully covered with network of veins ; broad, flat, and coiled into a spiral; edges with double row of spines. South and Eastern Counties, and Ireland. May to August.
IV. Spotted Medick (M. maculata). Similar to last, but pod more globose, network faint, the spines long and curved. Leaflets often with black spot in centre. Leaf-stalk hairy. Gravelly pastures and hedgebanks in England and South Ireland. May to August.
Lucerne, Purple Medick.
Medicago sativa. - Leguminosae. -