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Medicago littoralis
Medicago granadensis bur
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Plantae
(unranked): Angiosperms
(unranked): Eudicots
(unranked): Rosids
Order: Fabales
Family: Fabaceae
Subfamily: Faboideae
Tribe: Trifolieae
Genus: Medicago
Type species
Medicago sativa

See text.


Crimaea Vassilcz.[1]
Factorovskya Eig[1]
Kamiella Vassilcz.[1]
Lupulina Noulet[1]
Medica Mill.[1]
Pseudomelissitus Ovcz. et al.[1]
Radiata Medik.[1]
Rhodusia Vassilcz.[1]
Turukhania Vassilcz.[1]

Medicago is a genus of flowering plants commonly known as medick or burclover, and is in the legume family. It contains 87 species and is distributed mainly around the Mediterranean basin.[2] The best known member of the genus is alfalfa (M. sativa), an important crop,[3] and the genus name is based on the Latin name for that plant, medica, from Greek: μηδική (πόα) 'median (grass).'[4] Most members of the genus are low, creeping herbs, resembling clover, but with burs (hence the common name). However, alfalfa grows to a height of 1 meter, and tree medick (M. arborea) is a shrub.

The species Medicago truncatula is a model legume[5] due to its relatively small stature, genome (450–500Mb), short generation time (~3 months) and ability to reproduce both by outcrossing and selfing.

Comprehensive descriptions of the genus are Lesinš and Lesinš 1979[6] and Small and Jomphe 1989.[7] Major collections are SARDI (Australia),[8] USDA-GRIN (USA),[9] ICARDA (Syria),[10] and the INRA collection in Montpellier (France).[11] Several molecular phylogenies containing most of the species are available, although they differ.[12][13][14]


It is estimated that Medicago diverged from Glycine (soybean) 53–55 million years ago and from Lotus (deervetch) 49–51 million years ago[15]

Ecological Interactions with Other Organisms[edit]

Symbiosis With Nitrogen-fixing Rhizobia[edit]

Béna et al. (2005) constructed a molecular phylogeny of 23 Sinorhizobium strains and tested the symbiotic ability of 6 strains with 35 Medicago species.[12] Comparison of these phylogenies indicates many transitions in the compatibility of the association over evolutionary time. Furthermore, they propose that the geographical distribution of strains limits the distribution of particular Medicago species.

Agricultural Uses[edit]

Other than alfalfa, several of the creeping members of the family (such as Medicago lupulina and Medicago truncatula) have been used as forage crops.

Insect Herbivores[edit]

Medicago species are used as food plants by the larvae of some Lepidoptera species including Common Swift, Flame, Latticed Heath, Lime-speck Pug, Nutmeg, Setaceous Hebrew Character, Turnip Moth and case-bearers of the genus Coleophora including C. frischella (recorded on M. sativa) and C. fuscociliella (feeds exclusively on Medicago spp).[citation needed]

List of Species[edit]

This list is compiled from.[16][17][18][19][20][21][22][23][24][25]

Section Buceras[edit]

Subsection Deflexae[edit]

Subsection Erectae[edit]

Subsection Isthmocarpae[edit]

Subsection Reflexae[edit]

Section Carstiensae[edit]

Section Dendrotelis[edit]

Section Geocarpa[edit]

Section Heynianae[edit]

Section Hymenocarpos[edit]

Section Lunatae[edit]

Section Lupularia[edit]

Section Medicago[edit]

Section Orbiculares[edit]

Section Platycarpae[edit]

Subsection Rotatae[edit]

Section Spirocarpos[edit]

Subsection Intertextae[edit]

Subsection Leptospireae[edit]

Subsection Pachyspireae[edit]

Incertae Sedis[edit]


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i "Genus Nomenclature in GRIN". Retrieved 2010-07-09. 
  2. ^ Gholami A, De Geyter N, Pollier J, Goormachtig S, Goossens A (2014). "Natural product biosynthesis in Medicago species". Natural Product Reports 31 (3): 356–380. doi:10.1039/C3NP70104B. PMID 24481477. 
  3. ^ Alfalfa Crop Germplasm Committee Report, 2000
  4. ^ New Oxford American Dictionary (2nd ed., 2005), p. 1054, s.v. medick.
  5. ^ "Medicago truncatula". Retrieved 2008-11-21. 
  6. ^ Lesinš, Karlis Adolfs; Lesinš, Irma (1979). Genus Medicago (Leguminosae). The Hague, The Netherlands: Dr. W. Junk bv Publishers. p. 132. ISBN 90-6193-598-9. 
  7. ^ Small, E. and Jomphe, M. (1989). "A Synopsis of the Genus Medicago (Leguminosae)". Canad. J. Bot. 67 (11): 3260–94. doi:10.1139/b89-405. 
  8. ^ "SARDI". Retrieved 2008-11-21. 
  9. ^ "GRIN National Genetic Resources Program". Retrieved 2008-11-21. 
  10. ^ "ICARDA Sustainable Agriculture for the Dry Areas". Retrieved 2008-11-21. 
  11. ^ "INRA". Retrieved 2008-11-21. 
  12. ^ a b Béna G, Lyet A, Huguet T, Olivier I. (2005). "MedicagoSinorhizobium symbiotic specificity evolution and the geographic expansion of Medicago". J. Evol. Biol. 18 (6): 1547–58. doi:10.1111/j.1420-9101.2005.00952.x. PMID 16313467. 
  13. ^ Maureira Butler IJ, Pfeil BE, Muangprom A, Osborn TC, Doyle JJ. (2008). "The reticulate history of Medicago (Fabaceae)". Systematic Biology 57 (6): 466–482. doi:10.1080/10635150802172168. PMID 18570039. 
  14. ^ Steele KP, Ickert-Bond SM, Zarre S, Wojciechowski MF. (2010). "Phylogeny and character evolution in Medicago (Leguminosae): Evidence from analyses of plastid trnK/matK and nuclear GA3ox1 sequences". Am. J. Bot. 97 (7): 1142–1155. doi:10.3732/ajb.1000009. PMID 21616866. 
  15. ^ Cannon, Steven (2008). "3. Legume Comparative Genomics". In Stacey, Gary. Genetics and Genomics of Soybean. Plant Genetics and Genomics: Crops and Models II. New York, NY: Springer. p. 38. ISBN 978-0-387-72298-6. 
  16. ^ "ILDIS LegumeWeb". Retrieved 2008-11-18. 
  17. ^ "Genera Containing Currently Accepted Names: Medicago". Retrieved 2008-11-18. [dead link]
  18. ^ "Species Nomenclature in GRIN". Retrieved 2008-11-18. 
  19. ^ "IPNI Plant Name Query Results". Retrieved 2008-11-22. 
  20. ^ "AgroAtlas - Relatives". Retrieved 2008-11-22. 
  21. ^ "ITIS". Retrieved 2009-09-16.  (enter Medicago as the search term)
  22. ^ "Discover Life". Retrieved 2010-05-11. 
  23. ^ eFloras
  24. ^ The Biota of North America Program
  25. ^ The Plant List
  26. ^ The validity of this species has been questioned by Small and Jomphe, 1988.