Clovers

Red Clover Hare's-foot Clover Reversed Clover Sulphur Clover

What are they?

Some of our native clovers are amongst the best-known of our native flowers and provide a vital nectar source for many species of insects. These are members of the pea family with typical, trifoliate leaves, but the flowers are arranged rather differently to most pea species. Each individual flower has the five, highly modified petals that are typical of the pea family, but clover flowers have become much narrower in outline and can appear almost tubular, with greatly reduced standard petals. The flowers are further modified into tight, clustered heads.

Where are they found?

Clovers are a diverse bunch of species, but most may be found in open, grassy places such as lawns, roadsides, grassy heaths, coastal dunes and similar places.

Identification

The compact head of pea flowers coupled with trifoliate leaves makes clovers readily identifiable as a group. Identifying individual species can be more tricky and often requires checking two things; firstly, the paired stipules that appear as bract-like growths at the base of the leaf stalks, then secondly, the appearance of the flowerhead as the flowers mature into fruiting heads. In the latter case, the calyx (a tube formed by the five, fused sepals at the base of the flower) often changes shape and its appearance can help with identification.



White Clover      Trifolium repens

Native but also widely introduced in a variety of larger, cultivated strains. Widespread and very common in all kinds of open, grassy habitats. Flowers mostly May to September but a few flowers may be found throughout the year. Rather variable due to the presence of cultivated forms, but leaves typically with rounded leaflets which are well-marked with a pale ring. Flowers white, or sometimes tinged with pink on the lower flowers in the head. This is a mat-forming species that typically has low stems like runners that root into the ground at the leaf nodes.

White Clover White Clover White Clover White Clover
Habit
Flowerhead
Leaf
Seedhead


Alsike Clover      Trifolium hybridum

Introduced from mainland Europe in grass seed mixes, especially onto roadside verges. Widespread but often not persisting for more than a few years. Flowers June to September. Rather like White Clover but leaves typically with more elongate, unmarked leaflets. Flowers white at the top of the flowerhead and pink below, giving a clear, two-tone effect. This is a rather erect species that does not have stems like runners that root into the ground at the leaf nodes.

Alsike Clover Alsike Clover Alsike Clover Alsike Clover
Habit
Flowerhead
Leaf
Leaf stipule


Sulphur Clover      Trifolium ochroleucon

Native. Uncommon, although widespread on grassy verges throughout the Suffolk boulder clays and extending into southeast Norfolk and northwest Essex. Most plants are now to be found on protected roadside verges. Flowers June to July. Similar to White Clover but the individual flowers are narrower and have a distinct yellowish tint to them. The leaflets are relatively narrow and the whole plant is distinctly hairy. The leaf stipules are narrow and bristle-like.

Sulphur Clover Sulphur Clover Sulphur Clover Sulphur Clover
Habit
Flowerhead
Leaf
Leaf stipule


Red Clover      Trifolium pratense

Native. Common throughout the region in all kinds of grassy places. Flowers May to October or later. A very variable species but typically rather upright, not with creeping stems. Leaflets rather narrow and elongate, usually with a clear, pale mark. Leaf stipules rather broad and membranous, terminating in a fine, bristle-like tip. Typically, a leaf and its broad stipules will be found immediately beneath the flowerhead. Occasional plants with white flowers may appear, but these can be identified correctly by the leaf and stipule detail.

Red Clover Red Clover Red Clover Red Clover
Flowerhead
White form
Leaf
Leaf stipule


Zigzag Clover      Trifolium medium

Native. Much less common than Red Clover and typically found on heavier soils in damp places. Flowers May to September. Very like Red Clover, but leaf stipules very narrow, green (not membranous) and tapering evenly from the base to the tip. The flowerhead has a clear section of stem beneath it before the appearance of the uppermost leaf.

Zigzag Clover Zigzag Clover Zigzag Clover Zigzag Clover
Flowerhead
Calyx detail
Leaf
Leaf stipule


Strawberry Clover      Trifolium fragiferum

Native. Although a scarce species of damp grassland inland, this species is most likely to be found in wetter grasslands near the coast, or on the heavier soils of coastal river embankments. Flowers July to September. A low, creeping species with rooting leafnodes like White Clover. Flowers pale pink and usually in somewhat smaller heads than those of Red Clover. Most distinctive after flowering, when the seedheads swell to form rounded structures that rather resemble small strawberries.

Strawberry Clover Strawberry Clover Strawberry Clover Strawberry Clover
Habit
Flowerhead
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Seedhead


Crimson Clover      Trifolium incarnatum

Introduced from mainland Europe. Formerly grown as a fodder crop but now a rare, non-persistent stray from spilt bird seed or similar sources. Flowers May to September. An upright, hairy species to around 50cm in height with broad, overlapping leaflets. The flowers are rich crimson red and the flowerheads elongate as they ripen and mature.

Crimson Clover Crimson Clover Crimson Clover Crimson Clover
Habit
Flowers
Flowerhead
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Narrow-leaved Clover      Trifolium angustifolium

Introduced from mainland Europe. Recorded rarely as a non-persistent species from spilt grain. Flowers May to September. An upright species with very elongate flowerheads and long, narrow leaflets. Flowers pale pink.

Narrow-leaved Clover
Habit


Hare's-foot Clover      Trifolium arvense

Native. An annual species which is very common on the dry, sandy soils of Breckland and coastal areas. Also increasingly a plant of farmland set-aside strips. Flowers June to September. A small, finely downy, much-branched species with distinctly hairy flowerheads and narrow leaflets. Flowers are pink in bud, opening white.

Hare's-foot Clover Hare's-foot Clover Hare's-foot Clover Hare's-foot Clover
Habit
Flowers
Leaf
Seedhead


Starry Clover      Trifolium stellatum

Introduced from southern Europe. A rare species, probably introduced in the past in wool imports but not seen recently. Flowers June to September. A delicate, annual species with broad, membranous leaf stipules and narrow, pink and white flowers. Most distintive after flowering, when the narrow calyx lobes enlarge to form five-pointed star shapes.

Starry Clover Starry Clover Starry Clover Starry Clover
Habit
Flowers
Leaf
Seedhead


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
Leaf
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, hairless clover, to 20cm in height but typically much less. Flowers very narrow and producing spike-like clusters in very rounded flowerheads. After flowering, the old petals persist as brownish spikes and the calyx lobes expand and overlap to form a solid-looking globe.

Clustered Clover Clustered Clover Clustered Clover Clustered Clover
Flowers
Flowers
Leaf
Seedhead


Knotted Clover      Trifolium striatum

Native. A plant of open, sandy areas, most frequent in Breckland and near the coast. Flowers May to July. A tiny, prostrate species (occasionally taller amongst grass stems) with softly hairy stems and leaves. Flowers pink, in rather narrow heads. After flowering, the main body of the calyxes swell to form a cluster of small barrel shapes, all with prominent, red ribs.

Knotted Clover Knotted Clover Knotted Clover Knotted Clover
Habit
Flowers
Leaf
Seedhead


Rough Clover      Trifolium scabrum

Native. Generally uncommon on sandy soils, but can be locally common in the Suffolk Sandlings, Breckland and parts of the North Norfolk Coast. Flowers May to July. A tiny, softly downy clover, to 20cm in height but typically much less. Flowers white, narrow and often rather lost among the stiff, spike-like calyx lobes. After flowering, the calyx lobes remain stiff and erect, giving a rather spiny look to the seedheads. A distinctive feature of this species are the veins in the leaflets, which thicken and curve backwards as they reach the leaf margins.

Rough Clover Rough Clover Rough Clover Rough Clover
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Flowers
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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
Habit
Habit
Flower
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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Habit
Leaf
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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