Trifolium fragiferum (Strawberry Clover)
|Also known as:
|part shade, sun; disturbed soil; lawns, roadsides
|July - September
|3 to 6 inches
|Wetland Indicator Status:
|MN county distribution (click map to enlarge):
|National distribution (click map to enlarge):
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A single round flower head on a 3 to 6 inch stalk arising from a leaf axil. Heads are 1/3 to ½ inch diameter, densely packed with tiny, stalkless, pea-shaped flowers. Flowers are about ¼ inch long, with an upward curved petal (standard) that is rounded at the tip, small lateral wings below it and a smaller keel in the throat. Flowers are rosy pink to white turning darker pink with age. The calyx cupping the flower is densely hairy, covered in a network of veins, and is 2-lipped, the upper with 2 narrowly linear teeth that are often reddish-brown.
Leaves and stems:
Leaves are alternate but appear basal before the stem elongates, and are palmately compound in 3s on a hairless to variously hairy stalk up to about 3 inches long. Leaflets are 3/8 to 1 inch long, ¼ to ½ inch wide, oval to elliptic, widest at or above the middle, rounded at the tip, tapered at base, and stalkless. The upper surface is hairless, the lower hairless to variously hairy, especially along the midvein. Edges have very fine, sharp teeth.
A leafy appendage (stipule) about ¾ inch long is attached at the base of the leaf stalk, lance-shaped to triangular, gradually tapering to a sharply pointed tip, and sheathing the stem at the base. Stems are hairless to variously hairy, horizontal (stolons), running along the ground and rooting at the nodes, forming tangled mats. Flowering stems are hairless to variously hairy and extend to about twice as long as the leaf stalks.
The flower head becomes a creamy yellowish-white to pale gray seed head rather larger than the flower head. The persistent calyx becomes a much inflated capsule, with the 2 teeth from the upper lip flanking the small opening at the tip. Inside are 1 or 2 brown, kidney-shaped seeds.
This native of Eurasia and North Africa has been cultivated as a forage crop in parts of the western US and is a new introduction to Minnesota. It is known more as a lawn pest and is not known to invade high quality habitat, though, like other clovers, can be difficult to control once established. Only 3 confirmed locations are known at this time, but it is quite likely under-reported due to its similarity to the more ubiquitous White Clover (Trifolium repens) as well as Alsike Clover (Trifolium hybridum), both of which have a hairless calyx where Strawberry Clover has a distinctly hairy calyx. All 3 species may be found growing together, which further obscures things to the casual observer, but when fruiting, the unique seed head of Strawberry Clover easily distinguishes it from all other clovers.
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- Strawberry Clover plant
- Strawberry Clover plant
- Strawberry Clover in turf grass
- Strawberry Clover with Birds-foot Trefoil, Ragweed and turf grass
- seed head is larger than the flower head
Photos by K. Chayka and Peter M. Dziuk taken at a grassy roadside right of way in Thief River Falls, Pennington County.
Have you seen this plant in Minnesota, or have any other comments about it?