Electronic Flora of South Australia
Electronic Flora of South Australia
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Electronic Flora of South Australia species Fact Sheet

Family: Leguminosae
Medicago sativa

Citation: L., Sp. Pl. 778 (1753).

Synonymy: Medicago caerulea, Medicago sativa

Common name: Lucerne, alfalfa. (Ilk Cunningham et al. (1982) Plants of western New South Wales, p. 404.)

More or less pubescent deep-rooted perennial; branches ascending or erect, 30-120 cm long, more or less striate lengthwise; leaflets obovate to almost linear, 5-25 x 3-10 mm (in S. Aust.), long-cuneate, dentate at the apex, midrib ending in a terminal tooth, more or less softly villous on both surfaces; stipules lanceolate to linear-subulate, entire or dentate at the base; peduncle cuspidate, several times longer than the corresponding petiole; flowers distally 7-35 in an elongated loose spiral.

Flowers 5-12 mm long, on short stout erect (in fruit) pedicels, equal to or longer than the calyx tube; bracts linear-lanceolate, c. 2 mm long, acuminate; calyx half the length of the flower, more or less villous with long appressed hairs; teeth subulate, 1 or 2 times as long as the conical green tube; petals violet, purplish, rarely pink or white; standard twice or more as long as wide, with parallel sides in its middle part; wings longer than the keel.

Young pod rising from the calyx, then bending sideways; mature pod coiled in a spiral (in S. Aust.) of 1-3 turns usually with a hole through the centre, glabrous or with appressed simple (rarely glandular) hairs, spineless; coils turning clockwise, 3-9 mm (5-6 mm in S. Aust.) diam.; transverse veins anastomosing and forming a transversely or radially elongated network; dorsal suture vein slender but distinct, splitting lengthwise when seed is shed; seed obliquely reniform, 1.2-2.5 x 1-1.5 mm, yellow, greenish-yellow or brownish, smooth.

image of FSA2_Medicago_sat2.jpg
Image source: fig. 351B in J.P. Jessop and H.R. Toelken Ed. 1986. Flora of South Australia (4th edn).

Distribution:  S.Aust.: NU, GT, FR, EA, EP, NL, MU, YP, SL, SE.   It is under cultivation or adventive in all States.

Conservation status: native

Flowering time: at all times of the year, depending on availability of water.

SA Distribution Map based
on current data relating to
specimens held in the
State Herbarium of South Australia

Biology: Probably evolved around the Caspian Sea, introduced throughout the world as a valuable pastoral plant and forms of lucerne are now available for use in different climatic Situations.

Taxonomic notes: Very variable, particularly in Europe, where a number of distinct taxa have been recognised. In view of the overall variation and the known frequency of hybridisation, according to Turin (1968) Fl. Europaea 2:154, 5 subspecies are recognised. Introduction to S. Aust. was mostly intentional and several attempts from different parts of Europe were made; here in the wild the best known forms are variants which it has been found impractical

Author: Not yet available

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