Medicago sativa subsp. falcata

Tracheophyta MagnoliopsidaFabaceaeMedicagoMedicago sativa subsp. falcata


A perennial herb of grassy heaths, sea-walls, roadsides and tracks, chiefly found on calcareous soils and sands. It is often confined to the rear of roadside verges as it is sensitive to mowing. Lowland.



World Distribution

Eurosiberian Boreo-temperate element.

Atlas Change Index: -0.56

JNCC Designations


Scarce Atlas Account

Scarce Atlas Account: 

NOTE: The account below is for the sub-species. Closely related species and sub-species may have separate accounts listed elsewhere in the Online New Atlas

Medicago sativa L. subsp. falcata (L.) Arcang.

Sickle medick

Status: scarce


This subspecies occurs as a native on slightly acid coarse sands and gravels, and on chalk grasslands, in sites where competition is reduced by summer drought. It thrives in open or closed swards of non-aggressive plants, on sand banks at the rear of wide road verges and beside tracks where there is no animal access. It will not withstand rabbit grazing and is therefore absent from open heaths. Its numerous associates include Aira caryophyllea, Dactylis glomerata, Elytrigia repens, Galium verum and Ononis repens. It is also found as a casual over a wide area, but rarely persists for long.

It is a deep-rooted drought-resisting perennial, which spreads by seed.

This is still frequent in the Breckland (Trist 1979), but has apparently declined on the coast and in adjoining heaths. 

It is widespread in northern Europe and Asia, and widely introduced elsewhere. This subspecies has given rise to a few domesticated forms and is much used for breeding alfalfa resistant to cold, acid soils (Small & Jomphe 1989). It hybridises frequently with M. sativa subsp. sativa (lucerne, alfalfa). The hybrid, a fertile plant with a variety of flower colours, is locally frequent, especially on roadside verges.


D. A. Pearman