Family: Papilionaceae

There are about 100 species of annuals, peren­nials and sub-shrubs in this genus, which is mostly native to Europe, including the Mediter­ranean, but also other parts of the world, including Africa, Asia and America. They have pea-like flowers and a low, sometimes creeping, habit, making them suitable as groundcover or for rockeries and hanging baskets. Some species are used as pasture, while others are quite toxic.


L. australis, zone 9, an Australian native shrub with pale pink flowers, grows to 60 cm (24 in) high.

L. berthelotii, zone 10, from the Canary Islands, has silvery branches, with fine, needle-like leaves, and scarlet flowers in spring and early summer. It is grown as a groundcover, although it looks best in a basket or as a spillover plant on a wall, as this allows the pretty foliage and flowers to be seen to advantage.

L. corniculatus, bird's foot trefoil, zone 5, is widespread in various parts of the world. It is low growing, with yellow flowers tipped with red. A double-flowered form, 'Plenus', is a compact plant, more suited to ornamental growing.

L. jacobaeus, St James' trefoil, zone 9, grows to 1 m (3 ft), with streaked yellow and purple-brown flowers.


These plants prefer full sun and well-drained, sandy soil. Water regularly in warm months but keep much drier in winter. Propagate from seed or cuttings.


There are species suited to various climatic zones. Grow tender species in a cool greenhouse.

Loropetalum      Lovage