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I have been interested in nature for most of my life but since I retired I spend as much time as I can exploring the nature reserves and wildlife hotspots of my adopted home, Dorset in southern England. Whilst out I record what I see and take snaps where I can (I am no photographer!) and that forms the basis of my Nature of Dorset website. When I find something new I like to research it and write about it in my nature notes, it is how I learn and hopefully you might find my notes helpful as well!

This website is for the people of Dorset interested in wildlife and for people from elsewhere interested in the wildlife of Dorset!

17 November, 2015

Sainfoin: devoured by donkeys

Just one look at this lovely flower, sainfoin (Onobrychis viciifolia), and you can instantly see that it is a member of the pea family, a legume. Indeed, it is a striking member of the clover family with conspicuous purple flower spikes which make it somewhat unique amongst its cousins who tend to have rounded flower heads. Sainfoin flowers from June until August.
Sainfoin was once grown as a fodder crop for farm animals and survives in some grassy areas on lime soils; notably the meadows at Durlston. Although my book describes it as 'frequent' I have only found it there and along the coast at St Adhelms Head. The name, according to Wikipedia, derives from old French sain-foin meaning dry hay and its Latin family name, Onobrychis, comes from ancient Greek and means 'devoured by donkeys'!
This is a plant beloved by insects, especially bees, for its pollen and nectar as well as being the food plant of some butterflies. It also has medicinal properties for humans so, all in all, it is a jolly good flower to

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