Lotus corniculatus – common Bird’s foot trefoil – is a member of the pea family which is known by many names, including Eggs and Bacon, Butter and Eggs, and Hen and Chickens, which refer to the egg-yolk yellow flowers and reddish buds.
Also known as Granny’s toenails, due to the claw-like seed pods!
A low-creeping, perennial plant with clusters of flowers and downy leaves that have five narrow oval leaflets, with the lower two bent back by the stem, so that the leaves appear trefoil, 3-lobed.
Its yellow flowers appear from May, right through to September, taking on an orange hue as they age and are a good source of nectar for bees, butterflies and other pollinators.
Flowers are followed by seed pods, that look distinctly like bird’s feet or claws. The long-lived perennials are ideal for gravel gardens, rocky sites, and meadows.
Fast growers and once established they can become invasive, which is useful if you want to cover a large area quickly. Prompt dead-heading will help keep clumps smaller.
Easily grown from seed in early spring or autumn by soaking the seeds in water for 24 hours, or gently scarify before sowing shallowly in seed compost. Keep moist, but not wet, until they germinate, under glass until the seedlings start to grow. Thin out when they are large enough to handle and pot on.
Gradually harden off before planting out in late spring or early summer. Alternatively, sow directly into a well-prepared well draining bed in a sunny position.