Trifolium incarnatum (Crimson Clover)

Plant Info
Also known as:
Genus:Trifolium
Family:Fabaceae (Pea)
Life cycle:annual
Origin:Europe
Habitat:sun; dry to average moisture; disturbed soil; roadsides, fields, woodland edges, waste places
Bloom season:June - October
Plant height:8 to 24 inches
Wetland Indicator Status:none
MN county distribution (click map to enlarge):Minnesota county distribution map
National distribution (click map to enlarge):National distribution map

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Detailed Information

Flower: Flower shape: irregular Cluster type: spike

[photo of flowers] Oval to cylindric flower head ¾ to 2 inches long, single at the top of the plant and the tips of branching stems. Flowers are 3/8 to ½ inch long, bright to dark red, pea-shaped, densely packed in the head.

[photo of hairy calyces] The calyx surrounding the flower is light green to reddish, has 5 long, awl-shaped lobes and is densely covered in long hairs. Flower stalks are long and hairy.

Leaves and stems: Leaf attachment: alternate Leaf type: compound Leaf type: palmate

[photo of leaves] Leaves are palmately compound in 3s; leaflets are about 1 inch long, mostly toothless, rounded at the tip, usually widest above the middle, tapering to a stalkless base. The upper surface is solid green and sparsely to moderately covered in appressed hairs, the lower surface paler and covered in long, fine hairs, especially along the midrib. Edges are fringed in shorter hairs.

[photo of hairy stem and stipule] The compound leaf stalk is densely covered in spreading hairs. At the base of the stalk is a pair of hairy, leafy appendages (stipules), each blunt to rounded at the tip and fused to the leaf stalk for much of its length; the tip of the stipule is often purplish. Stems are mostly erect, unbranched or few-branched from the base, and densely hairy, the hairs mostly appressed, sometimes spreading.

Fruit: Fruit type: capsule/pod

The hairy calyx persists and holds a tiny, 1-seeded pod. Fruit ripens in the fall.

Notes:

Crimson Clover is a common roadside weed in the southern US but has only been recorded twice in Minnesota, and not in over 100 years. That is likely due to hardiness issues. Our first chance encounter was in 2004 in rural Aitkin County, which was probably part of a deer mix planting. We've also seen it intermittently in “wildflower” plantings over the past few years but so far it does not seem to be spreading on its own. When flowering, it is very easy to identify from the deep crimson flower heads, but the hairy stems and long-hairy, compound leaves with 3 green, rounded leaflets are also fairly distinct from other clovers in Minnesota. Red Clover (T. pratense) and White Clover (T. repens) both commonly have a light colored “V” pattern in the middle of each leaflet, which Crimson Clover lacks. Alsike Clover (T. hybridum) is completely hairless and leaflets are finely serrated.

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More photos

Photos by K. Chayka taken in Arkansas. Photos by Peter M. Dziuk taken in Aitkin County and his garden, and in Arkansas and Louisiana.

Comments

Have you seen this plant in Minnesota, or have any other comments about it?

Posted by: Carol Andrews - near Buyck
on: 2018-09-18 11:19:22

noticed at a gravel pit that was seeded using a clover mix this May.

Posted by: Susan Stanich - Carlton County
on: 2019-10-04 13:33:17

An organic farm here plants it as a cover crop; and it's very pretty, good for pollinators. According to U of M, it's a domestic crop in Minnesota. But apparently not a perennial here - our deep winter cold kills it.

Posted by: Debra Mowry - Rochester
on: 2020-09-16 15:14:00

I have a crismon clover growing in my flower garden. I first thought it was a red clover, but much darker and elongated flower, pubescence leavess which are rounded.

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