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Forest Garden plant profile – Black Medic

By 12th October 2021No Comments

Forest Garden plant Black Medic

Black Medic or Meddick (Medicago lupulina) is also know as yellow trefoil, black clover, nonesuch.

This low spreading plant is another one that many gardeners spend a lot of time (and money!) trying to remove from their gardens, particularly their lawns.  It has slightly hairy stems and resembles a clover with small yellow flower heads.  Like a clover, it is a trefoil with 3 oval leaflets.  It flowers throughout the summer and sets its small black seeds around now.  It is an annual, dying back after flowering but confusingly, it can over-winter and produce flowers in the spring.  However, note this, gardeners.   Black Medic, like beans and clover, is nitrogen-fixing so it is GOOD for the soil.  Where the plant is grown will become more fertile over time so it is an effective ‘green manure’ crop to grow while the soil is ‘resting’.

Black Medic is closely related to Alfalfa, with many of that plant’s positive properties although not as nutritious.  Its leaves are quite high in protein – higher that most greens.  Where it is eaten, it is often eaten in much the same way as spinach and other greens and although bitter, the leaves can be eaten in a bowl of salad.  However, there is a property in its seeds that can inhibit the absorption of protein.  Also, because it contains estrogenic compounds, it should not be eaten by children or pregnant and breastfeeding women.  So edible – but with caution!

Where did the name come from?  Despite appearances, it has nothing to do with medicine.   It appears to be a very old name, probably derived from Medes, the Central Asian people who came from what we now know as Iran and may have introduced the plant to Europe.  In its Latin name, lupulina derives from its resemblance to hops (Humulus lupulus).

Its real value is as a food for honey bees.  Honey bees love its yellow flowers and the honey made from the flowers is reputed to taste sweet, so bee keepers are fond of it.   It is also grown as a forage crop and sheep like it, cattle less so.   It is used in organic farming as a weed suppressant.

The plant has been used medicinally and is reputed to have mild anti-bacterial properties so may have been important in treating some bacterial infections before antibiotics.  Also, it may have value in helping to stop bleeding (another battle field herb!).   There is a down-side to this, however, as its blood-clotting properties mean it should never be eaten by people taking blood-thinning medication.

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Credits: Text and photo authored by Jan

DISCLAIMER: Any medical properties mentioned in this blog are meant for informational purposes only. They are not meant to be used to diagnose, treat, prescribe, prevent or cure any disease or to administer in any manner to any physical ailments and are not intended as a substitute for the medical advice of a trained health professional. Herbal remedies can also cause allergic reactions. Please do your own research and consult your heath care professional before treating yourself or anyone else.


People Learning About Nature in Tayport (PLANT) is a Tayport Community Trust subgroup which works to achieve TCT’s overall aim of promoting a vibrant and sustainable community, with improved quality of life, specifically through projects involving growing food and flowers, while enhancing Tayport’s natural environment. A key aim is to establish a community garden. Tayport Community Trust, Registered Charity No. SCO42558, Company No. SC350253, Registered Office: 10 Broad Street Tayport DD6 9AJ

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