Martin Sanford's picture

Sand Lucerne

Observed: 3rd July 2009 By: Martin Sanford
Botanical Society of Britain and Ireland
Plants expert
Sand Lucerne
Sand Lucerne
Sand Lucerne
Sand Lucerne
Sand Lucerne

A cross between the native Sickle Medick and alien Lucerne (both subspecies of Medicago sativa), it is fertile and capable of sustaining itself in a stable form.

Species interactions

No interactions present.


Martin Harvey's picture

welcome to iSpot

Biodiversity gets complicated sometimes! Is this a depressing sign of the problems of species being spread round the world, or an encouraging sign that wildlife will find a way to survive wherever it finds itself?

Entomologist and biological recorder

Jonathan's picture

I can't answer your question,

I can't answer your question, Martin, but it is a fascinating observation and new to me. The variability of the hybrid is interesting and I wonder whether selection will reduce this over time. Presumably the variation in flower colour has some effect on pollinators. I wonder what the flowers look like to bees that can see in the UV? Lots of questions raised by such hybrids. Spartina anglica arose in the same way as this plant, so its worth tracking over time. Are BSBI members doing this? I suppose so. Perhaps a future survey that iSpotters can do?

University of Edinburgh and Biodiversity Observatory (OU)

Martin Sanford's picture

Its both, the hybrid does

Its both, the hybrid does seem to be outcompeting wild Sickle Medick (M. sativa falcata) in Breckland and there are now very few sites where pure falcata occurs. It is also an example of the way some new species arise; it would be interesting to see if natural selection by pollinators meant that green forms were at a disadvantage compared to the yellow and mauve forms that resemble the parent subspecies but I doubt this will happen in my lifetime!
It was grown at one time as a fodder crop and was first recorded by Sir John Cullum as ‘var. floribus violaceis, luteis et virescentibus [with purple, yellow and green flowers]' on a roadside bank near Bury St Edmunds in 1804; also found in fields at Bradwell and Burgh Castle by Lilly Wigg in the Botanist's Guide (1805). It is tougher and more drought tolerant than subsp. sativa, and was known as 'Grimm Lucerne'.

Martin Sanford
Suffolk Biological Records Centre, Ipswich Museum, High St, Ipswich, Suffolk IP1 3QH