Medicago sativa L. is the correct and accepted scientific name for Alfalfa. The genus and species were named and described as such by Carl von Linnaeus in the second volume of the first edition of Species Plantarum in 1753.
Plants of the World Online by Kew lists 89 species in the Medicago genus (as of 4-13-21 when I last updated this page). It is a member of the plant family Fabaceae with 766 genera. Those numbers could change as updates are made.
Something is obviously wrong with the above distribution map for Medicago sativa from Plants of the World Online because it definitely has a broader range in North America. I am not criticizing POWO and I am sure they will update this map at some point. Areas in green are where the species is native and purple where it has been introduced. The map on POWO for Medicago sativa subsp. sativa is slightly different.
The map on the USDA Plants Database for North America is quite different… All areas in blue is where the species has been introduced. Well, Alfalfa is a popular legume for hay which is how it has been introduced to most of the world.
THERE ARE SEVERAL LINKS AT THE BOTTOM OF THE PAGE FOR FURTHER READING AND TO HELP WITH A BETTER POSITIVE ID.
You know, as widespread as time species is I have only seen it one time growing in the wild. Actually, I saw it growing along the road while walking back from park next to the farm. One solitary plant that obviously had been mowed off many times. I didn’t even realize it was Alfalfa until I uploaded photos on iNaturalist…
I apologize for not writing descriptions at the moment, but I have A LOT of wildflower pages to make and publish before I start getting too busy. I update this site and add new pages over the winter but I didn’t get finished. SO, I decided to just make the page with photos and links to other sites for better plant ID. I will be taking more photos over the summer and posting but I will also be working on these pages as I have time.
I have enjoyed photographing and learning about the many wildflowers growing on the farm and other areas. I have grown over 500 different plants and most have pages listed on the right side of the blog. I am not an expert, botanist, or horticulturalist. I just like growing, photographing, and writing about my experience. I rely on several websites for ID and a horticulturalist I contact if I cannot figure them out. Wildflowers can be somewhat variable from location to location, so sometimes it gets a bit confusing. If you see I have made an error, please let me know so I can correct what I have written.
I hope you found this page useful and be sure to check the links below for more information. They were written by experts and provide much more information. Some sites may not be up-to-date but they are always a work in progress. If you can, I would appreciate it if you would click on the “Like” below and leave a comment. It helps us bloggers stay motivated. You can also send an email to me at firstname.lastname@example.org. I would enjoy hearing from you especially if you notice something is a bit whacky.
NOTE: Plants of the World Online is the most up-to-date database. It is very hard for some to keep with name changes these days so you may find a few discrepancies between the websites. Just be patient. Hopefully, someday they will be in harmony. 🙂
FOR FURTHER READING:
PLANTS OF THE WORLD ONLINE (GENUS/SPECIES)
INTERNATIONAL PLANT NAMES INDEX (GENUS/SPECIES)
WORLD FLORA ONLINE (GENUS/SPECIES)
USDA PLANTS DATABASE
USDA FACT SHEET
FRIENDS OF THE WILDFLOWER GARDEN
PFAF (PLANTS FOR A FUTURE)
SOUTHWEST DESERT FLORA
SOUTHWEST COLORADO WILDFLOWERS
EDIBLE WILD FOOD
NOTE: The figures may not match on these websites. It depends on when and how they make updates and when their sources make updates (and if they update their sources or even read what they say). Some websites have hundreds and even many thousands of species to keep up with. Accepted scientific names change periodically and it can be hard to keep with as well. In my opinion, Plants of the World Online by Kew is the most reliable and up-to-date plant database and they make updates on a regular basis. I make updates at least once a year and when I write new pages but I do get behind. We are all a work in progress. 🙂