[The Alfalfa and Medic of the Columbia River Gorge of Oregon and Washington]

Alfalfa, Lucerne

Medicago sativa

Synonyms: Medicago sativa ssp. falcata, Medicago sativa ssp. sativa, Medicago sativa ssp. varia, Medicago x varia

Inflorescence of Alfalfa, Lucerne: Medicago sativa (Synonyms: Medicago sativa ssp. falcata, Medicago sativa ssp. sativa, Medicago sativa ssp. varia, Medicago x varia)

The photo above shows a flower head of alfalfa as seen from Catherine Creek in the central Columbia River Gorge........July 7, 2006.

Stem leaf of Alfalfa, Lucerne: Medicago sativa (Synonyms: Medicago sativa ssp. falcata, Medicago sativa ssp. sativa, Medicago sativa ssp. varia, Medicago x varia)The photo at right shows a tri-foliate leaf of alfalfa as seen at Catherine Creek.
Characteristics:

Alfalfa is perennial legume with several more or less erect stems arising 30-100 cm from a long taproot. The compound ternate leaves (3 leaflets) are found on the stems. Individual leaflets are elliptic-oblanceolate in shape, 2-4 cm long, with toothed margins on the distal part of the leaflet. The terminal leaflet is stalked while the lateral pair are nearly stalkless. Individual leaflets are somewhat hairy. The leaves alternate on the stems.

The inflorescence is an ovate cluster of blue to purplish flowers about 1-4.5 cm long. The clusters are terminal or found in the leaf axils. Individual flowers range from 5-11 mm long and consist of 5 united sepals, 5 united petals, 10 stamens and one pistil. The pods are spirally coiled, ranging from 5-8 mm long with several seeds.

Alfalfa is commonly cultivated for forage and is commonly dried cured for use as hay.


Habitat:

Alfalfa may be found as an escaped plant along roadsides or railroads or near cultivated fields in agricultural areas.


Range:

Introduced from Europe as an agricultural plant for forage, alfalfa may be found throughout agricultural areas of Canada and the United States.

In the Columbia River Gorge, it may be found between the elevations of 100'-2100' throughout the length of the Gorge.

Flower head of Alfalfa, Lucerne: Medicago sativa (Synonyms: Medicago sativa ssp. falcata, Medicago sativa ssp. sativa, Medicago sativa ssp. varia, Medicago x varia)

The photo above shows a flower head of alfalfa as seen from Catherine Creek in the central Columbia River Gorge........July 7, 2006. Plants can have either yellowish flowers as seen above, or those that are a bluish-lavendar as seen below.

Alfalfa, Lucerne: Medicago sativa (Synonyms: Medicago sativa ssp. falcata, Medicago sativa ssp. sativa, Medicago sativa ssp. varia, Medicago x varia) - Alfalfa, Lucerne: Medicago sativa (Synonyms: Medicago sativa ssp. falcata, Medicago sativa ssp. sativa, Medicago sativa ssp. varia, Medicago x varia)

Flower heads of alfalfa as seen from Catherine Creek in the central Columbia River Gorge........July 7, 2006.

Paul Slichter