Trifolium spp. - White Clover, Red Clover, Rabbit-foot clover, others.


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White Clover, prevalent in suburbian lawns, offers the occasional 4-leaf.

Pea Family (Fabaceae)

Each flower clusters consisting of pea-like cluster atop a slender stem coming from a creeping runner. The egg-shaped three-part leaves sometimes having a prominent arrow-like band pointing away from the stem. There are numerous species with white, pink, red and yellow flowers.

May to October

Roadsides, lawns, disturbed areas, meadows.


This pretty plant was introduced (i believe from England as a pasture crop), much to the chagrin of groundskeepers and golf course owners, and the white variety does well in lawns because it keeps low enough so lawn mowers just prune it rather than mow it down. It can be an indicator of low nitrogen in the soil if its overtaking the grasses in a lawn. The red variety is much more erect and so tends to live on the edges of lawns and waste places a bit more. Both are considered weeds.

Bumblebees seem to love this little plant, especially Red Clover, and honey bees seem to prefer the white clover, probably because their tongues are not long enough to probe the deeper Red Clover.

The white clover is usually one of the first flowers that children become familiar with, making clover bracelets and searching for the lucky 4-leaf group. It's interesting to look at under a magnifying glass because it really is a complex little flower, having quite a few of the pea-like flowers developing and poking out as it matures. Once it's done flowering it turns a characteristic brown.

A hybrid of Red and White clover exists. It is Alsike clover (Trifolium hybridum) and tends to have whitish flowers (with some pink), but not the chevron pattern. It also grows 1 - 2' tall and is not hairy.

Dogs will tell you... clover is edible. While it's not always good to trust what dogs eat, its true that all clovers (Trifoliums) are edible raw and contain a fair amount of protein and are a bit bland, but otherwise tasty. In larger amounts raw clover can cause bloat (the same is true of cattle and horses should they consume a large amount), so it's better to steam or cook these greens if serving them to the person who mows your lawn. Also, a tea can be made from the dried flower heads, and i've read that the seeds are also edible.


My observations about this plant can be found at:


Because the clovers have nitrogen-fixing properties and lawn invasion tendencies, there's quite a bit about it online. Some sites are:

The development site for UW-SP has some more pictures of White clover and Red Clover.

Stein's virtual Herbarium has some another picture of Red Clover.

Some herbal information on the Red Clover can be found at The Modern Herbal.

More information on Alsike Clover can be found at the library of University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

Purdue University's Agricultural extension has a good deal of information on the Alsike clover hybrid.