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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