Lotus (genus)

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This article is about the plant genus. For other plants called "lotus", see List of plants known as lotus. For other uses, see Lotus.
Lotus
Lotus formosissima 2.jpg
Seaside bird's-foot trefoil
Lotus formosissimus
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Plantae
(unranked): Angiosperms
(unranked): Eudicots
(unranked): Rosids
Order: Fabales
Family: Fabaceae
Subfamily: Faboideae
Tribe: Loteae
Genus: Lotus
L.
Species

Between 70-150; see text

Synonyms

Syrmatium[verification needed]

Lotus, derived from Lota (a small, usually spherical water vessel of brass, copper or plastic used in parts of South Asia), is a genus that included bird's-foot trefoils (also known as bacon-and-eggs[1]) and deervetches[2] and contains many dozens of species distributed world-wide. Depending on the taxonomic authority, roughly between 70 and 150 are accepted. Lotus is a genus of legume and its members are adapted to a wide range of habitats, from coastal environments to high altitudes. Most species have leaves with five leaflets; two of these are at the extreme base of the leaf, with the other three at the tip of a naked midrib. This gives the appearance of a pair of large stipules below a "petiole" bearing a trefoil of three leaflets – in fact the true stipules are minute, soon falling or withering.[3] Some species have pinnate leaves with up to 15 leaflets. The flowers are in clusters of 3-10 together at the apex of a stem with some basal leafy bracts; they are pea-flower shaped, usually vivid yellow, but occasionally orange or red. The seeds develop in three or four straight, strongly diverging pods, which together make a shape reminiscent of the diverging toes of a small bird, leading to the common name "bird's-foot".

The genus Lotus is currently undergoing extensive taxonomic revision. All species native to California (30 spp.) have been recently moved to the genera Acmispon and Hosackia in the Second Edition of The Jepson Manual.

Uses and ecology[edit]

Pasture with Lotus corniculatus (Common Bird's-foot Trefoil, Birdsfoot deervetch)

Lotus species are used as food plants by the larvae of some Lepidoptera species. (See list of Lepidoptera that feed on Lotus.) Several species are culvivated for forage, including L. corniculatus, L. glaber and L. pedunculatus. They can produce toxic cyanogenic glycosides which can be potentially toxic to livestock, but also produce tannins, which are a beneficial anti-bloating compound.

This genus can fix nitrogen from the air courtesy of their root nodules, making it useful as a cover crop. The nodulating symbionts are Bradyrhizobium and Mesorhizobium bacteria. Scientific research for crop improvement and understanding the general biology of the genus is focused on Lotus japonicus which is currently the subject of a full genome sequencing project, and is considered a model organism.

Some species, such as L. berthelotii from the Canary Islands, are grown as ornamental plants. L. corniculatus is an invasive species in some regions of North America and Australia.

Selected species[edit]

Lotus berthelotii

References[edit]

  1. ^ Collins English Dictionary
  2. ^ See Acmispon
  3. ^ C. A. Stace, Interactive Flora of the British Isles, a Digital Encyclopaedia: Lotus. ISBN 90-75000-69-3. (Online version)

External links[edit]