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Overview

Comprehensive Description

Comments

Black Medic looks like a sprawling Trifolium sp. (Clover) with small yellow flowerheads, however it is more closely related to Medicago sativa (Alfalfa). This is because their seedpods have a similar structure, although the seedpods of Alfalfa are more coiled than those of Black Medic. Other species in this genus include Medicago arabica (Spotted Medic) and Medicago orbicularis (Round Medic). These latter species are rare in Illinois and their seedpods are strongly coiled and spiny. Generally, all of these species have been introduced from Eurasia as a source of forage for livestock or to replenish agricultural soil with nitrogen.
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© John Hilty

Source: Illinois Wildflowers

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Description

This introduced plant is a winter or summer annual with prostrate or ascending stems up to 2½' long. These stems are light green or reddish green and densely covered with white hairs (although older stems become less hairy); they branch occasionally. The alternate compound leaves are trifoliate. Young trifoliate leaves toward the tips of the stems have short hairy petioles, while older trifoliate leaves have longer petioles. At the base of each petiole, there is a pair of stipules that are lanceolate to ovate and variable in size. The leaflets of the compound leaves are up to 2/3" long and about half as much across; they are medium to dark green, obovate or oval-ovate, hairy or nearly hairless, and slightly dentate along their margins. Each middle leaflet has a short stalk, while the lateral leaflets are sessile. The upper surface of each leaflet has fine lateral veins that are light green and straight. Occasionally, individual flowerheads are produced from the axils of the trifoliate leaves on peduncles up to 3" long. Each flowerhead is about ¼" across and globoid in shape; it consists of a dense cluster of 15-50 yellow flowers. Each flower is about 1/8" long; when fully open, it has a pea-like floral structure with an upper standard and lower keel; the former is relatively larger than the latter in size. The base of each flower consists of a small green calyx with 5 narrow teeth. The blooming period occurs from late spring to early fall and can last several months. Each flowerhead is replaced by a dense cluster of seedpods. Each seedpod is dark-colored, hairy, strongly curled, and about 1/8" long; it contains a single dark seed that is somewhat flattened and reniform (kidney-shaped). The root system consists of a coarse branching taproot that can form nodules.
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© John Hilty

Source: Illinois Wildflowers

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Distribution

Range and Habitat in Illinois

Black Medic occurs in every county of Illinois and is quite common. It was introduced from Eurasia for agricultural purposes. Habitats include prairies (black soil, clay), weedy meadows, old fields, cropland, pastures, vacant lots, landfills, cemeteries, lawns, areas along railroads and roadsides, and miscellaneous waste areas. This plant is usually found in highly disturbed areas, although it can invade high quality prairies. In the latter case, it becomes one of the understory plants that can tolerate the shade of taller prairie vegetation.
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© John Hilty

Source: Illinois Wildflowers

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National Distribution

Canada

Origin: Exotic

Regularity: Regularly occurring

Currently: Unknown/Undetermined

Confidence: Confident

United States

Origin: Exotic

Regularity: Regularly occurring

Currently: Unknown/Undetermined

Confidence: Confident

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© NatureServe

Source: NatureServe

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Distribution in Egypt

Oases, Mediterranean region and Sinai.

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© Bibliotheca Alexandrina

Source: Bibliotheca Alexandrina - EOL Ar

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Global Distribution

Mediterranean region, Europe, Asia; grown for fodder and naturalized in many Temperate regions.

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Source: Bibliotheca Alexandrina - EOL Ar

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Distribution: Pakistan; Kashmir; India, Russia, Afghanistan, Iran, Syria, Turkey, Europe, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Somali Republic, Tanganyika and Kenya.
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© Missouri Botanical Garden, 4344 Shaw Boulevard, St. Louis, MO, 63110 USA

Source: Missouri Botanical Garden

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Europe, Africa, W. & C. Asia; introduced into E. Asia, Australia, America.
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© Missouri Botanical Garden, 4344 Shaw Boulevard, St. Louis, MO, 63110 USA

Source: Missouri Botanical Garden

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Physical Description

Morphology

Physical Description

Annual, Herbs, Taproot present, Nodules present, Stems or branches arching, spreading or decumbent, Stems prostrate, trailing, or mat forming, Stems less than 1 m tall, Stems solid, Stems or young twigs sparsely to densely hairy, Leaves alternate, Leaves petiolate, Stipules conspicuous, Stipules green, triangulate to lanceolate or foliaceous, Stipules persistent, Stipules free, Leaves compound, Leaves pinnately 3-foliolate, Leaves odd pinnate, Leaflets dentate or denticulate, Leaflets opposite, Leaflets 3, Leaves glabrous or nearly so, Leaves hairy on one or both surfaces, Inflorescences spikes or spike-like, Inflorescences globose heads, capitate or subcapitate, Inflorescence axillary, Bracts hairy, Flowers zygomorphic, Calyx 5-lobed, Calyx hairy, Petals separate, Corolla papilionaceous, Petals clawed, Petals orange or yellow, Banner petal ovoid or obovate, Wing pet als narrow, oblanceolate to oblong, Wing petals auriculate, Wing tips obtuse or rounded, Keel tips obtuse or rounded, not beaked, Stamens 9-10, Stamens diadelphous, 9 united, 1 free, Filaments glabrous, Style terete, Fruit a legume, Fruit unilocular, Fruit freely dehiscent, Fruit strongly curved, falcate, bent, or lunate, Fruit exserted from calyx, Fruit hairy, Fruit gland-dotted or with gland-tipped hairs, Fruit 1-seeded, Seeds reniform, Seed surface smooth, Seeds olive, brown, or black.
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Dr. David Bogler

Source: USDA NRCS PLANTS Database

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Description

Annual or perennial. Stem prostrate or ascending, up to 60 cm Tong, pubescent, hairs simple or glandular. Petiole up to 2.5 cm long. Leaflets 5-20 mm long, 4-8 mm broad, obovate, cuneate, retuse to obcordate, apiculate, serrate in the upper half; stipules cordate, dentate. Inflorescence an axillary, pedunculate raceme, peduncle 2.5-4 cm long. Bracts c. 0.5 mm long. Pedicel c. 1 mm long. Calyx 1-1.5 mm long, pubescent, teeth almost equal to slightly longer than the tube. Corolla 2.5-3 mm long, yellow. Fruit 2-3 mm, curved through 180°, sparsely pubescent to glabrescent, black, 1-seeded.
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© Missouri Botanical Garden, 4344 Shaw Boulevard, St. Louis, MO, 63110 USA

Source: Missouri Botanical Garden

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Elevation Range

1000-4000 m
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Ecology

Habitat

Range and Habitat in Illinois

Black Medic occurs in every county of Illinois and is quite common. It was introduced from Eurasia for agricultural purposes. Habitats include prairies (black soil, clay), weedy meadows, old fields, cropland, pastures, vacant lots, landfills, cemeteries, lawns, areas along railroads and roadsides, and miscellaneous waste areas. This plant is usually found in highly disturbed areas, although it can invade high quality prairies. In the latter case, it becomes one of the understory plants that can tolerate the shade of taller prairie vegetation.
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© John Hilty

Source: Illinois Wildflowers

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Associations

Faunal Associations

The nectar and pollen of the flowers attract various insects, particularly bees (Andrenid bees, honeybees, bumblebees, & Halictid bees). Other insects sucking nectar from the flowers include Thick-headed flies (Conopidae) and small butterflies; see Müller (1873/1883) for a discussion. The foliage is edible to mammalian herbivores.
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© John Hilty

Source: Illinois Wildflowers

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Plant / associate
Apion filirostre is associated with Medicago lupulina
Other: minor host/prey

Foodplant / internal feeder
larva of Apion tenue feeds within stem of Medicago lupulina
Other: major host/prey

Foodplant / feeds on
pycnidium of Ascochyta coelomycetous anamorph of Ascochyta imperfecta feeds on live stem of Medicago lupulina

Foodplant / sap sucker
Bathysolen nubilus sucks sap of Medicago lupulina
Other: major host/prey

Foodplant / sap sucker
adult of Berytinus montivagus sucks sap of Medicago lupulina

Foodplant / sap sucker
nymph of Chlamydatus pullus sucks sap of Medicago lupulina
Remarks: Other: uncertain

Foodplant / sap sucker
nymph of Chlamydatus saltitans sucks sap of Medicago lupulina
Remarks: Other: uncertain

Foodplant / sap sucker
Coriomeris denticulatus sucks sap of Medicago lupulina

In Great Britain and/or Ireland:
Foodplant / parasite
Erysiphe pisi var. pisi parasitises Medicago lupulina

Foodplant / open feeder
Hypera fuscocinerea grazes on leaf of Medicago lupulina
Remarks: Other: uncertain

Foodplant / open feeder
larva of Hypera postica grazes on leaf of Medicago lupulina
Other: major host/prey

Foodplant / spot causer
conidioma of Sporonema coelomycetous anamorph of Leptotrochila medicaginis causes spots on live leaf of Medicago lupulina

Foodplant / parasite
sporangium of Peronospora officinalis parasitises live Medicago lupulina

Foodplant / parasite
sporangium of Peronospora romanica parasitises live Medicago lupulina
Other: sole host/prey

Foodplant / parasite
sporangium of Peronospora trifoliorum parasitises live Medicago lupulina

Foodplant / sap sucker
adult of Plagiognathus chrysanthemi sucks sap of Medicago lupulina
Remarks: season: late 6-9(10)

Foodplant / spot causer
apothecium of Pseudopeziza medicaginis causes spots on live leaf of Medicago lupulina
Remarks: season: 6-12

Foodplant / feeds on
larva of Sitona humeralis feeds on Medicago lupulina
Other: major host/prey

Foodplant / parasite
mostly hypophyllous uredium of Uromyces pisi-sativi parasitises live leaf of Medicago lupulina
Other: minor host/prey

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Life History and Behavior

Cyclicity

Flower/Fruit

Fl. Per.: March-June.
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© Missouri Botanical Garden, 4344 Shaw Boulevard, St. Louis, MO, 63110 USA

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Molecular Biology and Genetics

Molecular Biology

Statistics of barcoding coverage: Medicago lupulina

Barcode of Life Data Systems (BOLDS) Stats
Public Records: 17
Specimens with Barcodes: 31
Species With Barcodes: 1
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Source: Barcode of Life Data Systems (BOLD)

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Conservation

Conservation Status

National NatureServe Conservation Status

Canada

Rounded National Status Rank: NNA - Not Applicable

United States

Rounded National Status Rank: NNA - Not Applicable

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NatureServe Conservation Status

Rounded Global Status Rank: GNR - Not Yet Ranked

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Relevance to Humans and Ecosystems

Benefits

Cultivation

This plant thrives in areas with full to partial sun, moist to mesic conditions, and soil containing loam, clay-loam, or gravel. It is weedy and aggressive, but often overlooked because of its low growth habit and relatively small size. The roots add nitrogen to the soil by forming an association with rhizobial bacteria.
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© John Hilty

Source: Illinois Wildflowers

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Wikipedia

Medicago lupulina

Medicago lupulina (black medic, sometimes spelled medick or meddick; also known as black hay, black nonesuch, blackweed, etc.[1][2]) is a summer annual or perennial plant usually considered a weed. It has a tap root. Like other legumes, it has three leaflets; its center leaflet is on a separate petiole. As with other legumes, nitrogen-fixing bacteria, known as rhizobia, are found in nodules on the roots.

Description[edit]

Medicago lupulina is an annual or biennial plant, sometimes long-lived thanks to adventitious buds on the roots. The plant measures from 15 to 60 cm in height, with fine stems often lying flat at the beginning of growth and later erecting. The nodes bear three leaves, carried by a long petiole and have oval leaflets, partially toothed towards the tip. This species has very small yellow flowers are grouped in tight bunches. The fruit is a pod that does not open upon maturation, of a little arched form and bearing a single seed.

It is sometimes confused with other plants that have small leaves divided into three leaflets and small yellow flowers, such as members of:

Distribution[edit]

This plant can be seen through the old world: all of Europe, a great part of Asia, including China, Korea and Taiwan, as well as the Indian sub-continent, North Africa, the islands of the Atlantic (the Canaries, Madeira) and throughout the United States, including Hawaii.

It thrives in dry limestone grounds and coastal sand dunes, where it suffers less competition from the other plants. It is relatively cold resistant and can be seen in mountains up to 1800m.

Use[edit]

Medicago lupulina is sometimes used as a fodder plant. While being of good value, it isn't a very productive fodder. It is sometimes used in the composition of artificial meadows, especially when implanted in dry lands. It is a common sight in natural pastures. It is also one of the flowers that can be used to create honey.

Black Medic also an indicator plant for expert lawn cultivation. If the plant is found in large concentrations instead of grass, it is often indicative one's soil is poor in nitrogen.

Photographs[edit]

Illustrations[edit]

References[edit]

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