Prepared by Jennifer L. D’Appollonio, Assistant Scientist, University of Maine, Orono, ME 04469. Updated February 2018.

Scientific name: Medicago sativa L.

Common name(s):  alfalfa, purple medick

LinksUSDA PLANTS Profile, Go Botany

Images: (to see enlargements [PC]: click on image, then right click and choose “view image”)

Medicago sativa1
purple flowers, late June



-has a deep tap root

in flower from June to July


-likes deep loamy soils

-intolerant to floods and poorly drained soils

-tolerates droughts

-shade intolerant


-consumed by many wildlife and livestock species

-highly palatable

-one of the most nutritional forages

-attracts bees

-fire tolerant

Natural History:

-originated in southwestern Asia

-Introduced to the U.S. in 1736 in Georgia



USDA. “Fire Effects Information Systems -Medicago Sativa.” Medicago Sativa, USDA,