We present a molecular phylogeny including most species of the genus Medicago L. (Fabaceae). Based on the consensus of the 48 most parsimonious trees, life–history and mating–system characters are mapped and a putative history of the genus is suggested. The most parsimonious reconstruction suggests an ancestral annual and selfing state, and recurrent evolution towards perenniality and outcrossing. Based on theoretical predictions and classical hypotheses of the history of the genus, different assumptions about the ancestral state and different weighting schemes of evolution between the character states are made. Assuming an outcrossing perennial ancestral state (partly supported by morphological features) does not fundamentally change the reconstruction. To meet theoretical expectations, various weighting schemes favouring evolution towards annuality and selfing are applied. Influence and validity of such weighting schemes are discussed with regard to other studies.