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Statewide IPM Program, University of California

California burclover  (Medicago polymorpha)

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Life stages of California burclover Seedling Seed pods Fruit and leaf stalk Seeds

California burclover is an annual broadleaf plant. It is found throughout California, except the Great Basin and deserts, to about 5000 feet (1500 m). It inhabits agricultural land, turf, and other disturbed areas. California burclover is good forage for livestock and is sometimes cultivated for pasture or as a cover crop. However, California burclover fruit is prickly, and can lower the value of wool when it becomes entangled in the sheep's coat.


Turf, roadsides, fields, grasslands, pastures, agricultural sites (especially alfalfa fields) and other disturbed sites.


Cotyledons (seed leaves) are oblong. The first true leaf is rounded. Later leaves are composed of three leaflets and have a characteristic cloverlike shape.

Mature plant

Stems grow to 2 feet (60 cm) long and tend to trail along the ground, but may grow upright. Leaves divide into three round leaflets, resembling those of clover and usually have reddish-tinged midveins. Leaflets have serrated edges.


Bloom takes place from March to June. Flowers are small, bright yellow, and cluster into flower heads at the stem tips.


The fruit consists of a pod that usually appears tightly coiled two to six times. The pods are mostly brown, hairless, and smooth—or have two to three rows of prickles on the outer face. Prickles often end in tiny "hooks".


Several yellowish or tan, kidney-shaped seeds are contained in each pod.


California burclover reproduces by seed.

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