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Growing Wild - Bird’s foot trefoil and Knapweed

Growing Wild - Bird’s foot trefoil and Knapweed

Catherine Keena, Teagasc Countryside Management Specialist takes a closer look at some of our native Irish biodiversity to look out for in the countryside. Here she shares some interesting facts of nature about Bird’s foot trefoil and Common or black knapweed

Bird’s foot trefoil

Look out for Bird’s foot trefoil with clusters of bright golden yellow flowers, tinged with red or orange with irregular petals. Beneath three ‘trefoil’ leaflets, there is an extra pair of leaflets near the stalk. Like other legumes of the pea family, bird’s foot trefoil roots in association with bacteria fix atmospheric nitrogen, enriching soil. It is the foodplant of the dingy skipper and common blue butterflies. Around fifty species of bees have been observed visiting bird’s foot trefoil. Arranged like a bird’s foot, the seed pods give its name to bird’s foot trefoil – part of our native Irish biodiversity.

Common or black knapweed

Look out for Common or black knapweed with reddish purple thistle-like flowers, whose bases are covered in scaly bracts with bristly edges. The grey-green leaves grow alternately up the stiff branched ridged stems. The nectar at the base of tube-like florets is only available to long-tongued insects, mainly butterflies. Knapweed flowers stay open during rain as the pollen is only exposed when flowers are touched by visiting insects. With at least nine species of gall flies and small moths feeding on it, many of which are prey for other predatory insects, knapweed is a good example of a food web – all part of our native Irish biodiversity.

See previous Growing Wild articles below:

Keep an eye on Teagasc Daily for another Growing Wild next month. Learn more from Teagasc about Biodiversity & Countryside