Annual; stems prostrate to ascending, branched from the base, usually glabrous or nearly so, 2-5 dm; stipules deeply incised; lfls triangular-obovate, 6-15 mm, two-thirds as wide, obtuse to retuse, glabrous, or obscurely villosulous beneath; peduncles about equaling the subtending petioles; fls yellow, mostly 2-5(-8) per head, 2.5-4 mm; fr 2-5 times spirally coiled, 4-6 mm wide excluding the spines, these 2-3 mm, arising in 2 rows from an elevated ridge, minutely hooked at the tip; 2n=14. Native of the Mediterranean region, now established as a weed in s. U.S. and the Pacific states, and occasionally adventive in our range. Summer. (M. hispida)
Gleason, Henry A. & Cronquist, Arthur J. 1991. Manual of vascular plants of northeastern United States and adjacent Canada. lxxv + 910 pp.
Duration: Annual Nativity: Non-Native Lifeform: Forb/Herb General: Decumbent annual with numerous spreading branches to 80 cm long, glabrous stems and foliage, whitish stipules, asymmetrically ovate-lanceolate to 1 cm long, bearing several slender teeth 2-3 mm long. Leaves: Petioles 1-2 cm long, leaflets obovate to obcordate or suborbicular, 5-13 mm wide, 10-15 mm long, broadly cuneate to obtuse at base, dentate almost to base. Flowers: Peduncles 2-5 flowered, 2 cm long or less, calyx about 5 mm long, petals yellow, only slightly exceeding calyx. Fruits: Pods to 1 cm in diameter, tightly coiled into 2-3 spirals, reticulate on sides, margins keeled and keel armed on each side by a row of curved or hooked prickles 2-3 mm long. Ecology: Widely established, occasional in waste areas, old fields; flowers March-June. Notes: Introduced from Europe, widely naturalized at present. Ethnobotany: Seeds parched, ground to make mush; leaves eaten for forage. Etymology: Medicago derived from medike, or medick, the Greek name for alfalfa, while polymorpha means many forms, or variable. Synonyms: Medicago apiculata, M. denticulata, M. hispida, M. hispida var. apiculata, M. hispida var. confinis, M. polycarpa, M. polymorpha var. brevispina, M. polymorpha var. ciliaris, M. polymorpha var. polygyra, M. polymorpha var. tricycla, M. polymorpha var. vul Editor: SBuckley, 2010