Birds-foot trefoil is a herbaceous perennial plant that is part of the pea family. If is sometimes called ‘Bacon and Eggs’ due to the colour of the flowers, it is also known as ‘Granny’s Toenails’.
The name ‘Birds foot’ also refers the shape of the seed pods on the stalks. It is not as common in closely mown turf as lesser trefoil, it is often confined to neglected areas of turf and pastures.
However once it does get a foothold in turf it can be a major headache for gardeners.
It spreads over the lawn using both stolons (overground runners) and rhizomes (underground runners). It can adapt its growing height to suit the mowing regime and if left undisturbed it can grow up nearly ½ metre in height.
The leaves are clover like but in the case of birds-foot trefoil there are five leaflets not three. Three main leaflets are held just above two more, located lower on the stalk.
Birds-foot trefoil flowers are yellow in colour, often with a bright red streak, hence the name ‘bacon and eggs’. The flowers are similar to those of ‘Honeysuckle’ and can be seen between April and October. The flowers appear in clusters and are later followed by seed pods, similar in appearance to a birds foot.
Birds-foot trefoil will grow in most soil types, but is most happy on free draining, dry sandy sites.
A few plants can be hand weeded, taking care to remove the roots. Birds-foot trefoil has a deep root system.
Encourage a healthy lawn with good lawn care practices, such as mowing at a sensible height, regular feeding, aeration and scarification. Encouraging good turf vigour is the best way to prevent weeds as they are given little opportunity to invade.
Birds-foot trefoil can be controlled using a selective herbicide, however, a single application may not be enough for complete control. A second application, if needed, can be applied about 6 weeks after the initial application.
Birds-foot trefoil images
Recommended herbicides for the control of birds-foot trefoil
Professional products (All operators must be trained and certificated in using and applying any Ministry Approved professional product)
- ICL Enforcer (2,4-D, Dicamba, Mecoprop-p, MCPA)
- ICL Praxys (Fluroxypyr, Clopyralid, Florasulam)
- Barclay Holster (Fluroxypyr, 2,4-D, Dicamaba)
- Headland Cabadex (Flurosulam, Fluroxypyr)
- Hysward-P (Mecoprop-p, Dicamba, MCPA)
- Bayer Longbow (MCPA, Dicamba, Mecoprop-p)
- Mascot Greenor (Fluroxpyr, Clopyralid, MCPA)
- Mascot Crossbar (Fluroxpyr, 2,4-D, Dicamaba)
Products available for non-professional use (These products are available from garden centres and DIY stores and do not require any training or certification for use and application.)
- Weedol Concentrate (Fluroxypyr, Clopyralid, MCPA)
- Vitax lawn Clear (Clopyralid, 2,4-D, MCPA)
Tips for successful weed control using selective herbicides
- Treat weeds when growth is strong, this is usually in May and June.
- Don’t mow the lawn 3 days prior and 3 days after the treatment, to allow for maximum uptake of the chemical.
- Spray when the leaf/foliage is dry, as this reduces runoff and allows the chemical to stick to the weed.