French serradella

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French serradella is an annual pasture legume with three cultivars suited to Mediterranean climatic zones of Australia. Cadiz and Eliza are soft seeded while Margurita and Erica are hard seeded. They produce large quantities of high quality fodder with high seed yields on deep course textured soils where they are well adapted.

History and cultivars

French serradella is an annual legume that has been used for several centuries as a fodder and green manure in the Iberian Peninsula, Atlantic Islands and central Europe. More recently it has been introduced and cultivated in the Mediterranean climatic zones of Australia and South Africa. Cadiz, Margurita and Erica are French serradella cultivars specifically bred for the 325-600mm rainfall zone in southern Australia.

Cadiz was developed from a direct introduction collected in 1989 in the Western Cape Province, South Africa, near the town of Darling (33º 22' S; 18º 22' E). This region has a Mediterranean climate similar to the south-west of Australia. Cadiz was first grown by the Australian Trifolium Genetic Resource Centre (ATGRC) under the collection code 89ZAF5SAT in 1991.

Erica and Margurita were developed by Department of Primary Industries and Regional Development (DPIRD) research officer Dr Bradley Nutt, from Cadiz as single plant selections with the ability to produce hardseeds. They were tested under the breeder’s codes FHS3 and FHS7 at a number of sites in Western Australia, NSW and Victoria. Dr Nutt also developed Eliza a soft seeded early maturing genotype of French serradella. The characteristics of these cultivars are shown in Table 1 below.

Table 1 Characteristics of French serradella cultivars
Cultivar Status in Australia Hard seed Days to flowering, Perth WA
Cadiz PBR (1996) No 110
Erica   Yes 115
Margurita PBR (2002) Yes 114
Eliza PBR (2010) No 90


French serradella is a leguminous herb that grows as a rosette initially and then develops runners or vines as flowering is initiated. The leaves alternate along the vines and are composed of paired leaflets along the petiole, ending in a single leaflet. The flowers are formed in a cluster, usually of up to eight flowers each and are most commonly light pink.

Each flower produces a pod consisting of six to seven segments, with slight constrictions between them. The pods are 3-3.5cm long, straight or slightly curved and have a small beak at the end that may be slightly hooked. Pod segments each contain a single seed and separate freely at maturity.

In Perth, Eliza, Cadiz, Erica and Margurita begin flowering between 90-115 days after an early May sowing. Flowering tends to be earlier in more northerly districts and later in more southerly districts from a similar sowing time. Cadiz, Eliza and Margurita are upright cultivars, while Erica is more prostrate in growth habit.

Sward of flowering French serradella in spring
Sward of flowering French serradella in spring