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Deerweed Lotus scoparius


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Deerweed - flower
credit: stonebird/CCSA

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Alternate name: Western Bird's-foot Trefoil

Family: Fabaceae, Pea view all from this family

Description Many flexible green branches arising from a woody base have flimsy, widely spaced leaves and abundant yellow flower clusters.
Habit: native perennial subshrub; sometimes prostrate.
Height: to 3 ft (1 m).
Leaf: alternate, soft, pinnately compound; 3 leaflets (rarely 4-6), elliptic, 0.25-0.6 in (6-15 mm) long.
Flower: yellow, sometimes red-splotched, fading to red or orange, pea-like, 0.25-0.6 in (6-15 mm) long; in cluster of 1-7 flowerheads, from leaf axil.
Fruit: curved pod, long-beaked, sometimes mottled, to 0.6 in (1.5 cm).

Flower March to August.

Habitat Fire-damaged sites, dry brushy slopes, coastal sage scrub, desert
scrub, washes, coastal bluffs, coastal dunes, roadsides; also cultivated for erosion control, landscape restoration, and as an ornamental.

Range Most of California and Arizona, into northern Baja California.

Discussion Also called common deerweed, California broom. The latin name Syrmatium glabrum is also used. Two varieties are proposed.

This is one of the many species of flowering plants that thrive after fire has ravaged chaparral-covered slopes. It vigorously persists for several years, although it is choked out of most areas by the thick brush that eventually returns. By taking advantage of the open habitat and quickly covering exposed slopes, it helps reduce erosion, which would be far greater if the soil depended for cover on the slower-growing brush. Like most other members of the Pea Family, it has the capacity to enrich the soil with nitrogen.