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VARIEGATED ALFALFA (Medicago falcata L. X saliva L.) Other Latin names: Medicago media Pers., M. silvestris Fr. Other English name: Sand Lucerne.

Botanical description: Yellow Lucerne, as indicated above, is closely related to Alfalfa, and the two species have in fact been regarded by some authors as only one, chiefly because there are intermediates between them which seem to make separation difficult or even impossible. These may all be included under the general name Variegated Alfalfa. There is, however, no doubt that Yellow Lucerne and Alfalfa are two distinct species which can be readily distinguished by the colour of their flowers and the shape of their fruits. Variegated Alfalfa, which might seem to contradict this statement, is not a variety of either Alfalfa or of Yellow Lucerne. It is a cross product of the two species, just as the mule is a cross pro-duct of the horse and the ass.

On account of its hybrid origin, Variegated Alfalfa is like Alfalfa in some ways and in others is like Yellow Lucerne. It is generally easily distinguished by its flowers. Being a cross between a yellow and a purple species, its flowers are a mixture of yellow and purple. The blend results in a peculiar dirty yellowish green colour, which is characteristic of the great bulk of the primary hybrid, or the product obtained by crossing pure Alfalfa and pure Yellow Lucerne. In a field of Variegated Alfalfa, however, the flowers are found in all colours from yellow to dark greenish purple, depending to some extent on their stage of development; the same flower generally changes its colour with age, so all shades may be represented in one plant. The chief cause of the variation, however, is the manner in which the blossoms are fertilized. Variegated Alfalfa is unlike most other hybrid plants in being fertile; it is able to produce an abundance of seed of good quality. The flowers of any plant of the primary hybrid may be fertilized in many different ways; for instance, by other flowers of the same plant, by flowers of another primary hybrid, or by flowers of pure Alfalfa if it grows in the neighbourhood. In any of these cases, the result will be a blending or re-combination of the original colours.

Habitat: Variegated Alfalfa occurs naturally where ordinary Alfalfa and Yellow Lucerne grow together.

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