White Clover

White Clover

White Clover

Botanical name: Trifolium repens L.

Common Names

Also known as: clover, Dutch clover, honeysuckle clover, ladino clover, purplewort, shamrock, white clover, white Dutch clover, white trefoil

White Clover Description

A short-lived (i.e. annual) or long-lived (i.e. perennial) herbaceous plant with creeping (i.e. prostrate) stems, and upright flower stalks 10-30 cm tall.

Distinguishing Features

  • a creeping herbaceous plant that is mostly encountered during winter and spring.
  • its compound leaves have three leaflets, often with distinctive paler v-shaped markings.
  • its small, white or pinkish, pea-shaped flowers are borne in dense globular clusters at the top of slender upright stalks.
  • its tiny pods remain hidden inside the old flower parts.

The creeping stems (i.e. stolons) grow very close to ground level and produce roots (i.e. adventitious roots) at their joints (i.e. nodes). They are mostly hairless (i.e. glabrous or glabrescent) and are usually less than 30 cm long.

The alternately arranged leaves are hairless (i.e. glabrous) and borne on long stalks (i.e. petioles) that tend to curve upwards. These leaves are compound and consist of three leaflets (i.e. they are trifoliate). The individual leaflets (10-55 mm long and 6-30 mm wide) are either oval (i.e. elliptic), egg-shaped in outline (i.e. obovate), or heart-shaped (i.e. obcordate) and have finely-toothed (i.e. serrate or dentate) margins. They usually have distinctive paler green v-shaped markings on their upper surfaces and their tips are either rounded or notched (i.e. they have obtuse, retuse or emarginate apices).

The small pea-shaped flowers are white to pale pink and arranged in dense globular clusters (15-35 mm across) at the top of long upright stalks (i.e. erect peduncles). Each of the flowers is borne on a short stalk (i.e. pedicel) 3-5 mm long and has five green or reddish sepals, which are fused together into a small tube (i.e. calyx tube). They also have five petals (4-13 mm long): a large upper petal (i.e. standard), two side petals (i.e. wings) and two lower petals that are fused together and folded (i.e. they form a keel). Each flower also has ten tiny stamens and an ovary topped with a style and stigma. Flowering occurs mostly during spring and early summer.

The tiny pods (4-6 mm long and up to 2 mm wide) remain hidden inside the old flower parts. Each of these inconspicuous fruit contains three or four seeds.

This species reproduces by seed and vegetatively via its creeping stems (i.e. stolons).

White clover (Trifolium repens) may be confused with strawberry clover (Trifolium fragiferum), subterranean clover (Trifolium subterraneum), clustered clover (Trifolium glomeratum) and woolly clover (Trifolium tomentosum).


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