sainfoin (sānˈfoin) [key] [Fr., = holy hay], leguminous perennial herb ( Onobrychis viciaefolia ) of the family Leguminosae (pulse family) indigenous in S Europe and in temperate W Asia. Sainfoin has for centuries been widely cultivated in Europe as a forage crop. Although it was introduced into the United States about 160 years ago, it has never become agriculturally important there. It thrives on calcareous soils too dry or too barren for clover or alfalfa. The plant is sometimes associated with the Christmas story of the Infant Jesus in the manger. Sainfoin is also called esparcet and holy clover. It is classified in the division Magnoliophyta, class Magnoliopsida, order Rosales, family Leguminosae.
The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.
More on sainfoin from Infoplease:
See more Encyclopedia articles on: Plants