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Forage Identification: Sainfoin

Department of Plant Sciences

Sainfoin (Onobrychis viciifolia Scop.)

This perennial is used mostly in the western US, where it is adapted to high calcium and pH soils. Drought resistant. Grows well on well drained soils. Low tolerance to flooding, water logging or even high water table.


Growth Habitat:
Perennial legume with many tall hollow stems, 60-80 cm or more, which is taller than alfalfa.  Its leaves are compound with 5-l4 pairs of oval-shaped leaflets.


Plant Characteristics:
Leaves are compound with 5-l4 pairs of oval-shaped leaflets and a single leaflet at the tip.  Cone like clusters of fragrant, pinkish-red flowers on the end of long stalks (raceme).

Sainfoin flower

Seed Characteristics:
Large seed for legume. One seed per pod. Brown in color.

Sainfoin seeds

Important Identifying Characteristics:
Compound leaves and pinkish-red flowers on raceme.

Sainfoin nodules

Primary Uses:
Hay and pasture.


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