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Medicago lupulina L.

Black medic, black medick, black meddick

KingdomPlantaePlants, but not fungi, lichens, or algae
SubkingdomTracheobiontaVascular plants—plants with a “circulatory system” for delivering water and nutrients
DivisionMagnoliophytaFlowering plants, also known as angiosperms
ClassMagnoliopsidaDicotyledons—plants with two initial seed leaves
SubclassRosidaeRoses, legumes, proteas, dogwoods, hydrangeas, mistletoes, euphorbias, grapes, many more
OrderFabalesLegumes (pea and bean families)
FamilyFabaceaeLegume family (peas and beans)
GenusMedicagoFrom Latin medica, “alfalfa, lucerne,” in turn from Greek μηδική (πόα), “Median (grass).’Latin medica ‘alfalfa, lucerne,’ from Greek: median μηδική (πόα), “grass”
SpecieslupulinaFrom lupus, “wolf,” here meaning “hop-like” in its climbing

About plant names...

Black medic is a low-growing clover-like plant. It is a member of the very large pea family. Bacteria on its roots trap nitrogen, allowing it to grow in low nitrogen soils. It lives for one or two seasons. It grows throughout the world.

Identification: Black medic rarely exceeds 30" (76 cm) in height, and often remains much closer to the ground. It favors dry ground and alkaline (limestone) soils. It is easily confused with hop clovers. There are several closely similar varieties that are not documented here yet.


Medicago lupulina (black medic, black medick, black meddick)


Trifolium aureum

Trifolium campestre

Trifolium dubium
Common Name

hop clover

low hop clover

least hop clover
Plant Plants 6-18" (15-45 cm) high. Up to 16" (40 cm) tall, sometimes erect, sometimes growing along the ground 2-6" (5-15 cm) tall, often forming mats.


About ¾" (1.9 cm) high. Flowers turn brown and wilt, seeds fall to the ground instead of forming a fruit


Yellow, less than ½" (1.3 cm) across; roughly spherical, with 20-40 individual flowers; flowerheads become brown with age. Upper petals of the flowers have grooves.


About ¼" (6.3 mm) yellow flowerheads, oval to spherical, 5-15 flowers per head. Flowers turn brown when seeds ripen.


Groups of 3. Central leaf is not on a separate stem (petiole). Leaflets about ¾" (1.9 cm) long, ¼" (6.3 mm) wide.


Groups of 3, about ¾" (1.9 cm) long; with small teeth near the leaf tips. The central leaf is on a longer stem (petiole) than with other hop clovers, often notched at the top


Alternate, in groups of 3, with a larger center leaf on a short petiole (stem), often notched at the top.
Stem Multiply branched, usually erect Green or reddish green, multiply branched Green or reddish, multiply branched.
Seeds Inconspicuous Inconspicuous  
Fruit     Inconspicuous.
Range/ Zones

Habitats Grasslands, fields, roadsides, wastelands Temperate grasslands, fields, roadsides, wastelands, cultivated fields Disturbed soil, meadows, common in lawns.
Type Wild Wild Wild
Occurrence Common Common Common


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Medicago lupulina
Common Name

black medic
Plant Plant may reach up to 30" (76 cm) long


Rounded, about ¼-½" (6.3-12 mm)


Three leaves, with slightly serrated tips, center leaf on separate petiole
Stem Often prostrate, light green or reddish green, covered with white hairs
Seeds Black, coiled


Seedpods are "coiled"—this is probably the most unique feature of black medic
Range/ Zones

Habitats Prairies (black soil, clay), weedy meadows, old fields, cropland, pastures, vacant lots, landfills, cemeteries, lawns, areas along railroads and roadsides, and miscellaneous waste areas; common in low-cut lawns
Type Wild


Medicago lupulina (black medic, black medick, black meddick)

From Thomé, Prof. Dr. Otto Wilhelm, Flora von Deutschland Österreich und der Schweiz., 1885.

Online References:

Vascular Plants of the Gila Wilderness


The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations

Vascular Plants of the Gila Wilderness



Illinois Wildflowers

The Virginia Tech Weed Identification Guide

SEINet—the Southwest Environmental Information Network

Medicago lupulina L. var. cupaniana (Guss.) Boiss.

Medicago lupulina L. var. glandulosa Neilr.


Medicago lupulina description by Thomas H. Kent, last updated 16 Sep 2020.

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