Burr Clover

Scientific Name(s): Medicago polymorpha
Abundance: plentiful
What: seeds
How: raw or roasted, ground into flour
Where: sunny fields, lawns, and neglected areas
When: late winter through summer
Nutritional Value: starch

Leaf Arrangement: Leaves are alternate arrangement where each leaf emerges individually at different points along the stem.

Leaf Shape: The compound leaves are trifoliate, meaning each leaf is composed of three leaflets. These leaflets are obovate to oblanceolate in shape, broader at the tip and narrowing towards the base.

Venation: It exhibits pinnate venation, with a central vein in each leaflet and smaller veins branching off to the sides.

Leaf Margin: The margins of the leaflets are toothed, especially near the tip.

Leaf Color: The leaves are generally a bright green color.

Flower Structure: The flowers are small and grouped in tight clusters. Each flower is typical of the pea family, with a banner, wings, and keel.

Flower Color: The flowers are yellow.

Fruit: The fruit is a coiled pod that resembles a burr, hence the name burclover. It often has spines or hooked hairs.

Seeds: Each pod contains several small, kidney-shaped seeds.

Stem: The stems are slender, can be either prostrate or ascending, and are often branching.

Hairs: The plant, especially the fruit, may have small hairs or spines.

Height: Medicago polymorpha typically grows to a height of about 6 to 24 inches, depending on environmental conditions.


Close-ups of Burr Clover flowers.


Burr Clover seed pods.

Texas distribution, attributed to U. S. Department of Agriculture. The marked counties are guidelines only. Plants may appear in other counties, especially if used in landscaping.
This map is very incomplete.

North American distribution, attributed to U. S. Department of Agriculture.

Burr Clover is often mistaken for regular clover but these leaves are coarse, rough-edged and grow off prostate runners all branching out from a central taproot. The edible seeds grow one per seedpod and can be eaten raw or roasted then ground into flour once they turn black.

Being mostly starch, it should be possible to use Burr Clover seeds to produce alcohol. The starch must be broken down into simple sugars for the yeast. The easiest way to do this to combine the crushed seeds with the amylase enzymes found in saliva…in other words, the traditional “spit beer” made by many primitive cultures where a starchy material is chewed and then spit into a large pot to ferment for several days to produce a weak alcoholic drink. Luckily, high concentrations of the necessary enzyme are also found the sprouts of barley and other grains, which can be bought from brewer supply stores.

Like most clovers, Burr Clover forms a symbiotic partnership with rhizobium bacteria which allows it to turn atmospheric nitrogen gas into a form usable by plants. This makes it a beneficial plant to let grow in your garden as it fertilizes nearby plants with this nitrogen.

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