Trifolium repens (White Clover)

Plant Info
Also known as: Dutch Clover
Genus:Trifolium
Family:Fabaceae (Pea)
Life cycle:perennial
Origin:Europe
Status:
  • Weedy
Habitat:shade, sun; lawns, fields, roadsides, open woods
Bloom season:May - October
Plant height:3 to 6 inches
Wetland Indicator Status:GP: FACU MW: FACU NCNE: FACU
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: round

[photo of flowers] Round flower head ½ inch across densely packed with tiny white pea-shaped flowers, on a slender smooth stalk about 3 inches long that emerges directly perpendicular to the creeping horizontal stems at ground level. The heads are generally held about an inch or more higher than the thick carpet of surrounding leaf faces. Flowers are tiny, the upper petal (standard) is oval-lance like, the lateral paddle shaped wings below it angle out widely with a small keel exposed in the center. Petals are white, fading to a dirty pink with age. The calyx tube holding the flower is hairless, greenish white with green toothed lobes.

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

[photo of leaves] Leaves are palmately compound in 3s, on a 1 to 3-inch stalk, alternately attached and perpendicular to the stem running along the ground. Leaflets are broadly oval to nearly round, about ½ inch diameter, finely toothed, rounded at the tip and slightly tapered toward the base, very commonly with a white crescent across the middle of the leaflets but not always. Stems are smooth, growing horizontally on soil surface, 4 to 12 inches long, rooting down at the nodes.

Notes:

The native range of White Clover is Europe to western Asia and into north Africa but has been introduced as a forage species for livestock throughout the world. While more regional varieties likely existed naturally, today there are many “cultivars” that express size differences as well as drought or cold temperature tolerances, plus a few “ornamentals” for the garden trade. Regardless of herbarium records, it is highly doubtful this species does not persist (un)naturally in every county in the state. Similar species is the less ubiquitous Alsike Clover (Trifolium hybridum), which is a more upright plant, without the crescent shape on the leaflets.

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More photos

Photos by K. Chayka taken in Ramsey and Aitkin counties. Photos courtesy Peter M. Dziuk taken in Anoka County.

Comments

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

Posted by: Elizabeth - My backyard!
on: 2011-06-15 15:58:50

I LOVE white clover! I am planting it now in an area of my yard where nothing at all will grow. We currently have some patches of white clover, and it is so pretty, and does not seem like a "weed" in my lawn. It is a GREAT nitrogen-fixing agent for lawn grass.

Posted by: K. Chayka
on: 2011-06-15 18:02:24

I will just note that if the only thing you are interested in is a boring bluegrass lawn (and endless mowing duties), then there probably isn't much I could say to change your mind about white clover. But if you are open minded then you might consider replacing some of that bluegrass with native grasses, sedges and wildflowers that would not only be relatively care-free, but also support native insects, butterflies, birds, and on up the food chain. There are many natives that do well in poor soil.

Posted by: Erica - Minneapolis
on: 2014-04-17 15:59:01

I wish to have a dutch white clover lawn

Posted by: Khatti - Brown County
on: 2014-05-28 17:06:57

Because white clover is a nitrogen fixer I'm thinking of planting it in my cabbage patch to help the cabbages along and counteract the beating the soil takes from cabbages. Anyone think of a reason why this is a bad idea?

Posted by: Jake - Morrison County
on: 2015-03-02 16:11:04

I have never planted white clover in our yard but, about every 3 years, a patch of it blooms. While it's blooming, I don't even mow it because it adds beauty to the lawn. If this is suppose to be a perennial, why doesn't it bloom every year? This spring I plan on actually planting more of this near the road where there is little hope of growing grass.

Posted by: Debbie - St.Louis Park
on: 2015-05-01 22:28:14

I hear some bee keepers are promoting planting white clover to support bees. Are there a Minnesota native plants that will work just as well?

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