1902 Encyclopedia > Sainfoin


SAINFOIN (Onobrychis sativa) is a low-growing perennial plant with a woody root-stock, whence proceed the stems, which are covered with fine hairs and bear numerous long pinnate leaves, the segments of which are elliptic. The flowers are borne in close pyramidal or cylindrical clusters on the end of long stalks. Each flower is about half an inch in length with lanceolate calyx-teeth shorter than the corolla, which latter is papilionaceous, pink, with darker stripes of the same colour. The indehiscent pods or legumes are flattened from side to side, wrinkled, somewhat sickle-shaped and crested, and contain only a single seed. In Great Britain the plant is a native of the calcareous districts of the southern counties, but elsewhere it is considered as an escape from cultivation. It is native throughout the whole of central Europe and Siberia; but it does not seem to have been cultivated in Great Britain till 1651, when it was introduced from France or French Flanders, its French name being retained. It is grown as a forage plant, being especially well adapted for dry limestone soils. It has about the same nutritive value as lucerne, and is esteemed for milch cattle and for sheep in winter. Sinclair speaks in high terms of its value for this latter purpose.

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