Trifoliate Peas & Beans

White Melilot Common Restharrow Runner Bean Reversed Clover

What are they?

These plants are white or pink-flowered members of the pea family and bear flowers that are typical and distintive of that family. This is a varied group of species, with some being low-growing perennials, while others are taller-growing annuals or even climbing plants. A number of these species are grown as popular vegetables.

Where are they found?

Cultivated species may occur as garden throw-outs or where self-seeded on roadsides, rough ground and disturbed places. Native species are typically plants of open, grassy habitats.

Identification

In general, most species can be told by flower colour, coupled with details of the seed pods and leaves. The Restharrows require closer scrutiny so be sure to read the texts for each species carefully. A few clovers with unusual flowerheads are included here, but other clovers can be found by clicking here.



Common Restharrow      Ononis repens

Native. Widespread in a wide range of grassy places on chalk, boulder clay and coastal sands. Flowers June to September. A low-growing subshrub to 60cm in height with densely glandular hairy stems, the hairs distributed all around the stems. Leaves have three leaflets but may consist of a single, simple blade on upper parts of the plant. Occasionally the stems may bear a few spines. The pink and white flowers have the wings as long as the keel. Coastal forms are more prostrate and more glandular-hairy and are often referred to as subspecies maritima

Common Restharrow Common Restharrow Common Restharrow Common Restharrow
Habit
Flower
Flower
Leaf


Spiny Restharrow      Ononis spinosa

Native. Widespread on the boulder clay of south Norfolk and central Suffolk but uncommon or absent elsewhere. Flowers June to September. A low-growing but erect subshrub to 70cm in height with glandular hairy stems, the hairs distributed discreetly in one ore two narrow rows on the stems. Leaves have three leaflets but may consist of a single, simple blade on upper parts of the plant. The pink and white flowers have the wings shorter than the keel. The stems typically bear obvious, straw-coloured spines.

Spiny Restharrow Spiny Restharrow Spiny Restharrow Spiny Restharrow
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Spine


White Melilot      Melilotus albus

Introduced from mainland Europe. Widely but thinly scattered across most of the region as an arable weed and on disturbed roadsides and rough ground. Nowhere common, but most frequent in Breckland, around Norwich and near the Suffolk coast, on sandier soils. Flowers June to September. A typical melilot in appearance with its long, narrow, upright flower spikes, but for the white flowers.

White Melilot White Melilot White Melilot White Melilot
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Flowers
Leaf
Seed pods


French Bean      Phaseolus vulgaris

Introduced from mainland Europe. Widely grown as a vegetable in gardens and on allotments and also as an agricultural field crop and has been found as a casual or self-seeded on marginal land. Flowers June to September. Very similar to Runner Bean but not a climbing plant. Seed pods are smooth and rounded on the outside.

French Bean French Bean French Bean French Bean
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Runner Bean      Phaseolus coccineus

Introduced from mainland Europe. Widely grown as a vegetable in gardens and on allotments and has been found as a casual or self-seeded where garden waste is dumped. Flowers June to September. A strong, climbing plant which climbs by means of twining stems in the nature of a bindweed and does not have tendrils. Flowers are naturally red, but white-flowered varieties are also sometimes grown. Seed pods are rough and flattened on the outside.

Runner Bean Runner Bean Runner Bean Runner Bean
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Flower
Leaf
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Runner Bean
Flower


Asparagus-pea      Tetragonolobus purpureus

Introduced from southern Europe. Occasionally grown as a novel food plant for its edible pods and may occur as a casual from dumped garden waste. Flowers June to September. A distinctive member of the family with deep red-maroon flowers and strongly winged seed pods.

Asparagus-pea Asparagus-pea Asparagus-pea Asparagus-pea
Habit
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Seed pod


Reversed Clover      Trifolium resupinatum

Introduced from mainland Europe. Occasionally turns up in newly seeded grass areas where at least some of the seed source has been from overseas, but seldom seems to persist more than a few years. Flowers June to September. A very distinctive clover due to the flowerheads which consist of flowers that are each rotated 180 degrees on their axis so that they are, in effect, upside down. This has the result of each flower curving outwards and away from the flowerhead, creating a more open, flat-topped appearance to the flower cluster.

Reversed Clover Reversed Clover Reversed Clover Reversed Clover
Habit
Flowerhead
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Seedhead


Clustered Clover      Trifolium glomeratum

Native. Generally uncommon on sandy soils, but can be locally common in the Suffolk Sandlings, Breckland and North Norfolk Coast. Flowers June to August. A tiny clover, to 20cm in height but typically much less. This species is included here because very small plants on poor soil can sometimes have just three or four, very narrow flowers in a head which does not look like the typical tight head of a clover (see first picture).

Clustered Clover Clustered Clover Clustered Clover Clustered Clover
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Flowers
Leaf
Seedhead


Bird's-foot Clover      Trifolium ornithopodioides

Native. An annual of sandy places near the coast with just one or two records from further inland. Flowers May to September. An annual, prostrate species. Flowers very pale pink (often appearing white in photos due to overexposure!), solitary or in small clusters of 2-4. Leaves and stems hairless.

Bird's-foot Clover Bird's-foot Clover Bird's-foot Clover Bird's-foot Clover
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Leaf


Subterranean Clover      Trifolium subterraneum

Native. Rather local on sandy soils and mostly coastal. Flowers June to September. A downy annual that is tiny and easily missed due to its unassuming appearance. The plant produces flowerheads that include a mix of two to five, fertile flowers with creamy white petals and non-fertile flowers that have no petals. The plant has the peculiar habit of burying its ripening seedheads into the ground as they mature.

Subterranean Clover Subterranean Clover Subterranean Clover
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Suffocated Clover      Trifolium suffocatum

Native. A plant of open ground on sandy soils. Widespread on the Suffolk coast but rare elsewhere, just reaching into Norfolk at Great Yarmouth and more recently discovered in the Cromer area. Flowers April to August. A tiny, prostrate species that forms a tight rosette of calyxes, surrounded by a ring of long-stalked leaves. The flowers are dull white, the petals shorter than the surrounding calyx and difficult to spot. The red-tinged calyxes form a prickly-looking knot at the centre of the plant with their strongly reflexed and overlapping lobes.

Suffocated Clover Suffocated Clover Suffocated Clover Suffocated Clover
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Seedheads


Canary Clover      Dorycnium hirsutum

Introduced from southern Europe. Occasionally grown as a garden plant and recorded twice in Suffolk where self-seeding into nearby pavements. Flowers June to August. A woody-based subshrub growing to around 50cm in height with a white-woolly appearance. Flowers clustered in tight heads and much resembling a clover, but the leaf stipules are enlarged, making the leaves appear to have five, fingered leaflets.

Canary Clover Canary Clover Canary Clover Canary Clover
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