Trifolium pratense L. - Red clover.

Taxonomic position.

Family Leguminosae Endl., genus Trifolium L., sect. Trifolium ex D. E. Coombe.

Biology and morphology.

Short-lived perennial, sometimes biennial herb. Develops a crown at or slightly above the soil surface, consisting of an accumulation of buds formed at the plant base. Overwinters as a root-stock with a crown. Tap root extends to one meter or more in depth but older plants have mainly adventitious and lateral roots emanating from the crown. Stems sometimes root at the nodes when in close contact with a moist soil surface. Leaves are trifoliate, pubescent and alternate with a pale, inverted, crescent-shaped mark on the mid-upper surface. Inflorescences, terminal on main and axillary stems, consist of many ovoid, compound racemes with numerous pink or purple florets. The florets are cross-pollinated by bumble bees and honey bees. Seed pods contain one or two kidney-shaped seeds which are yellow, brown or purple in colour, with purple seeds being generally heavier than the others. 2n = 14 or 2n = 28.


Widely distributed in the temperate zones of the world, viz. north Atlantic and central Europe, the Mediterranean region, Balkans, Asia Minor, Iran, India, Himalayas, Russia from Arctic south to east Siberia, Caucasus, and the Far East.


Found along borders of fields and forest margins, meadows. Will grow in a wide range of soil and environmental conditions but not excessively wet, acid or shallow soils.

Utilization and economic value.

Extensively grown for pasturage, hay and green manure, considered excellent forage for livestock and poultry. Highly productive, nitrogen-fixing, protein- and mineral-rich species adapted to a wide range of soil and environmental conditions. Has good winter hardiness. Its erect growth habit makes it suitable for hay and silage making. High nutritive value and voluntary intake characteristics lead to good animal performance. Major source of honey. Unsuited to intensive grazing. May cause bloat in ruminants.


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Flora of the USSR, 1945. Schischkin V.K., E.G. Bobrov (ed.). Vol. 11, M.-L.: AN USSR , 430 pp. (in Russian).
Galushko A. I. 1980. Flora of Northern Caucasus. A field guide. - Rostov - na - Donu:, Vol. 2. - 350 pp. (in Russian).
Grossheim A. A. 1952. Genus Trifolium. Flora of the Caucasus. M.-L.: AN USSR, v.5 - p. 191 - 221. (in Russian).
Hulten, Eric and Magnus Fries. 1986. Atlas of north European vascular plants north of the Tropic of Cancer.
Nikitin V. V., Geldikhanov A. M.. 1988. Plants of Turkmenistan. A field guide. - L.: Nauka, 680 pp. (in Russian).
Plants of Asia Minor. A field guide. 1981. A. I. Vvedenskiy (ed.). - Tashkent: Fan, Vol. VI. - 394 pp. (in Russian).

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