Medicago sativa - Linnaeus
Fabaceae (Pea) Family
Alfalfa is an upright or sprawling perennial plant that grows to three feet. Its preferred habitat is fields and waste ground. Distribution is throughout the Escambia region.
The leaves are pinnately tri-foliate (three leaflets per leaf) with serrations on the tip of each leaflet. The stipules have teeth, lobes and sharp pointed tips.
The flowers are purple or yellowish in loose heads.
The fruit is corkscrew-like capsule.
Alfalfa is one of the leading forage crops. It originated in Asia before 700 BC; having first been cultivated in Iran. From South America, alfalfa was brought to California during the Gold Rush. From California, the crops spread to the Midwest and then eastward.
The common name alfalfa was given in the U.S., but Europeans call it Lucerne. Regardless of the common name, the crop is a herbaceous perennial that can produce large amounts of nutritious forage material. The energy and protein yield/acre by alfalfa rivals that of a corn crop used for silage purposes. It is considered the "Queen" or "Cadillac" of forages. The alfalfa crop can be used as a pasture, hay, or as silage. It can also be cut and dehydrated to make protein rich meal or pellets for livestock.