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.
As of 11-24-21 when this page was last updated, Plants of the World Online by Kew lists 89 species in the Medicago genus. It is a member of the plant family Fabaceae with 773 genera. Those numbers could change as updates are made on POWO.
The above distribution map for Medicago sativa is from Plants of the World Online. Areas in green are where the species is native and purple where it has been introduced. POWO gets some of their maps for the United States and Canada from Flora of North America for families recognized on that site. When I wrote this page FNA had not yet included genera from the plant family Fabaceae. FNA is working on this family and will be released soon then POWO will update their maps.
The map on the USDA Plants Database for North America is quite different… All areas in blue are 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.
The map on iNaturalist shows where members have made observations. Anyone can join and it is a great website to confirm and share your observations. The maps on iNaturalist are continually updated as members post new observations.
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. I am busy updating the plant pages, adding photos I took over the summer, and adding pages for plants I identified in 2021. This is a wintertime project… I will go back later and add descriptions as I have time. There are several links at the bottom of the page written by experts that know much more than I do. Writing descriptions of the plant, flowers, stems, leaves, etc. is a lengthy process and I get behind. 🙂
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 data (figures, maps, accepted names, etc.) may not match on these websites. It depends on when and how they make updates and when their sources make updates. 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. Some of the links may use a name that is a synonym on other sites. 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 or add new photos but I do get behind. We are all a work in progress. 🙂