Creeping Trefoil

Lotus (genus)

See Lotus for other uses, including several other plant taxa bearing this name.

Lotus is a genus that includes bird's-foot trefoils and deervetches and contains many dozens of species distributed world-wide. Depending on the taxonomic authority, roughly between 70 and 150 are accepted. Lotus is a genus of legume and its members are adapted to a wide range of habitats, from coastal environments to high altitudes. Most species have leaves with three leaflets, but also two large stipules at the base roughly equal in size to the leaflets, thus appearing to have five leaflets; some species have pinnate leaves with up to 15 leaflets. The flowers are in clusters of 3-10 together at the apex of a stem with some basal leafy bracts, pea-flower shaped, vivid yellow or orange, occasionally red.

Uses and ecology

Lotus species are used as food plants by the larvae of some Lepidoptera species. See list of Lepidoptera that feed on Lotus. Several species are culvivated for forage, including L. corniculatus, L. glaber and L. uliginosus. They can produce toxic cyanogenic glycosides which can be potentially toxic to livestock, but also produce tannins, which are a beneficial anti-bloating compound.

This genus can fix nitrogen from the air courtesy of their root nodules, making it useful as a cover crop. The nodulating symbionts are Bradyrhizobium bacteria. Scientific research for crop improvement and understanding the general biology of the genus is focused on Lotus japonicus which is currently the subject of a full genome sequencing project, and is considered a model organism.

Some species, such as L. berthelotii from the Canary Islands, are grown as ornamental plants. L. corniculatus is an invasive species in some regions of North America and Australia.

Selected species

External links

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