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Genus Medicago Family Fabaceae
Subfamily Faboideae

Description: Annual or sometimes perennial herbs or rarely shrubs.

Leaves pinnately 3-foliolate; stipules fused to petiole.

Inflorescences axillary, pedunculate, umbellate to racemose, few- to many-flowered; bracts small, persistent; bracteoles absent. Flowers with an explosive tripping mechanism. Calyx campanulate, with 5 equal to subequal teeth. Standard obovate, longest; wings and keel obtuse. Stamens diadelphous; filaments not dilated; anthers uniform.

Pod 1- to many-seeded, scarcely dehiscent, tightly coiled or rarely reniform or falcate, often with a row of spines or tubercules on the dorsal suture which is formed of a thickened region of central and lateral veins; seeds without a conspicuous aril.


Distribution and occurrence: World: 56 species, Eurasia & Africa, chiefly Mediterranean region. Australia: c. 13 species (naturalized), all States.

Most species were introduced as pasture plants and have become naturalized on disturbed sites such as roadsides, gardens, lawns and in pastures.

Text by P. H. Weston
Taxon concept:

Taxa not yet included in identification key
Medicago italica

 Key to the species 
1Pods neither spiny nor tuberculate2
Pods tuberculate to spiny7
2Inflorescences 10–50-flowered; peduncles more than twice as long as subtending petioles3
Inflorescences 1–10-flowered (rarely to 15-flowered in Medicago tornata); peduncles less than twice as long as subtending petioles
                       Back to 1
4
3Pods reniform, with only the distal end coiled, 1-seeded; corolla yellow; standard 2–2.5 mm longMedicago lupulina
Pods cylindrical, 2–3-coiled, 2–6-seeded; corolla violet; standard 6–12.5 mm long
                       Back to 2
Medicago sativa
4Pods 11–17 mm diam., lateral veins not visible5
Pods 2.5–10 mm diam., lateral veins visible
                       Back to 2
6
5Coils of pods concave, lower coils enclosing upper ones; pods ellipsoid or cup-shapedMedicago scutellata
Coils of pods convex, stacked together on top of one another; pods lenticular
                       Back to 4
Medicago orbicularis
6Pods with lateral veins separated from dorsal suture by a narrow deep groove; coils with flat sides, 15–20 radial veins per coilMedicago polymorpha
Pods with lateral veins separated from dorsal suture by a flat region; coils with convex sides, c. 10 radial veins per coil
                       Back to 4
Medicago tornata
7Upper surface of leaflets sparsely to densely hairy when young8
Upper surface of leaflets glabrous
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9
8Stipules hairy only on lower surface, weakly toothed to deeply incised; pods with lateral veins separated from dorsal suture by narrow, deep groove, dorsal suture narrowMedicago truncatula
Stipules hairy on both surfaces, entire to weakly toothed; pods with lateral veins separated from dorsal suture by a broad, slightly concave region, dorsal suture wide
                       Back to 7
Medicago minima
9At least some leaflets deeply laciniateMedicago laciniata
Leaflets entire to toothed
                       Back to 7
10
10Pods 10–14 mm diamMedicago intertexta
Pods 4–9 mm diam
                       Back to 9
11
11Dorsal suture bisected by a shallow groove; leaflets marked by an upper central blotch or a very wide shield occupying the basal two-thirds of the leafletMedicago arabica
Dorsal suture not grooved; leaflets either not marked or with darker flecks or a basal darker patch
                       Back to 10
12
12Calyx teeth longer than tube; keel shorter than wings; inflorescences 1–10-flowered; terminal leaflets 8–27 mm long; peduncles shorter than to twice as long as the subtending petiolesMedicago polymorpha
Calyx teeth shorter than tube; keel longer than wings; inflorescences 1–3-flowered; terminal leaflets 5.5–12 mm long; peduncles shorter than subtending petioles
                       Back to 11
13
13Standards 4.5–6 mm long; pods 5–6 mm diam., dorsal suture elevated above lateral veins; 7–14-seeded; leaflets oblanceolateMedicago laciniata
Standards 2–3 mm long; pods 4–5 mm diam., dorsal suture level with lateral veins; 3–6-seeded; leaflets obovate to obcordate
                       Back to 12
Medicago praecox

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