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Montana Field Guides

Common Sainfoin - Onobrychis viciifolia

Non-native Species

Global Rank: GNR
State Rank: SNA
C-value: 1

Agency Status


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General Description
Deep-rooted perennial with a branched caudex. Stems erect, 30–70 cm. Herbage glabrous to sparsely villous, minutely punctate. Leaves petiolate, odd-pinnate with 15 to 21 narrowly elliptic to oblong leaflets 1–2 cm long with rounded, mucronate tips; stipules brown-hyaline, 5–11 mm long, connate below with deltoid lobes. Inflorescence dense, axillary, bracteate racemes 3–12 cm long with spreading flowers. Flowers papilionaceous, magenta; calyx tube ca. 2 mm long, the narrowly lanceolate lobes 3–5 mm long; banner reflexed, 10–12 mm long, ca. equal to the prominent, prow-shaped keel; wings 3–4 mm long; stamens of lower flowers 9 united, 1 separate, those of upper flowers all united. Fruit 1-seeded, flattened, ovate, veiny, 5–7 mm long (Lesica et al. 2012. Manual of Montana Vascular Plants. BRIT Press. Fort Worth, TX).

Range Comments
Widely introduced in North America for forage and hay; native to Europe (Lesica et al. 2012. Manual of Montana Vascular Plants. BRIT Press. Fort Worth, TX).

Observations in Montana Natural Heritage Program Database
Number of Observations: 15

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Relative Density



(Observations spanning multiple months or years are excluded from time charts)


The following animal species have been reported as pollinators of this plant species or its genus where their geographic ranges overlap: Bombus vagans and Bombus fervidus (Colla and Dumesh 2010).


  • Literature Cited AboveLegend:   View Online Publication
    • Colla, S.R. and S. Dumesh. 2010. The bumble bees of southern Ontario: notes on natural history and distribution. Journal of the Entomological Society of Ontario 141:39-68.
    • Lesica, P., M.T. Lavin, and P.F. Stickney. 2012. Manual of Montana Vascular Plants. Fort Worth, TX: BRIT Press. viii + 771 p.
  • Additional ReferencesLegend:   View Online Publication
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    • Auld, D.L. 1976. Proof of pathogenicity of Fusarium solani (Mart.) Appel and Wr. to Sainfoin (Onobrychis viciifolia Scop.) and development of procedures to select for resistance. Ph.D. Dissertation. Bozeman, MT: Montana State University. 63 p.
    • Gaudet, D.A. 1978. The role of bacteria in the root and crown rot complex of irrigated sainfoin (Onobrychis viciifolia Scop.) in Montana. M.Sc. Thesis. Bozeman, MT: Montana State University. 88 p.
    • Hemming, B.C. 1982. Plant-associated fluorescent pseudomonads: their systematic analysis, microbial antagonism and iron interaction. Ph.D. Dissertation. Bozeman, MT: Montana State University. 154 p.
    • King, L.A. 1980. Effects of topsoiling and other reclamation practices on nonseeded species establishment on surface mined land at Colstrip, Montana. M.Sc. Thesis. Bozeman, MT: Montana State University. 129 p.
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Citation for data on this website:
Common Sainfoin — Onobrychis viciifolia.  Montana Field Guide.  .  Retrieved on , from