Trifolium incarnatum (Crimson Clover)
|Also known as:|
|Habitat:||sun; dry to average moisture; disturbed soil; roadsides, fields, woodland edges, waste places|
|Bloom season:||June - October|
|Plant height:||8 to 24 inches|
|Wetland Indicator Status:||none|
|MN county distribution (click map to enlarge):|
|National distribution (click map to enlarge):|
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Oval to cylindric flower head ¾ to 2 inches long, single at the top of the plant and the tips of branching stems. Flowers are 3/8 to ½ inch long, bright to dark red, pea-shaped, densely packed in the head.
Leaves and stems:
Leaves are palmately compound in 3s; leaflets are about 1 inch long, mostly toothless, rounded at the tip, usually widest above the middle, tapering to a stalkless base. The upper surface is solid green and sparsely to moderately covered in appressed hairs, the lower surface paler and covered in long, fine hairs, especially along the midrib. Edges are fringed in shorter hairs.
The compound leaf stalk is densely covered in spreading hairs. At the base of the stalk is a pair of hairy, leafy appendages (stipules), each blunt to rounded at the tip and fused to the leaf stalk for much of its length; the tip of the stipule is often purplish. Stems are mostly erect, unbranched or few-branched from the base, and densely hairy, the hairs mostly appressed, sometimes spreading.
The hairy calyx persists and holds a tiny, 1-seeded pod. Fruit ripens in the fall.
Crimson Clover is a common roadside weed in the southern US but has only been recorded twice in Minnesota, and not in over 100 years. That is likely due to hardiness issues. Our first chance encounter was in 2004 in rural Aitkin County, which was probably part of a deer mix planting. We've also seen it intermittently in “wildflower” plantings over the past few years but so far it does not seem to be spreading on its own. When flowering, it is very easy to identify from the deep crimson flower heads, but the hairy stems and long-hairy, compound leaves with 3 green, rounded leaflets are also fairly distinct from other clovers in Minnesota. Red Clover (T. pratense) and White Clover (T. repens) both commonly have a light colored “V” pattern in the middle of each leaflet, which Crimson Clover lacks. Alsike Clover (T. hybridum) is completely hairless and leaflets are finely serrated.
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Where to buy native seed and plants ↓
- Crimson Clover plant
- Crimson Clover plants
- Crimson Clover plants
- Crimson Clover in a weedy roadside
- first chance encounter, October 2004
- hairs on leaf underside
Photos by K. Chayka taken in Arkansas. Photos by Peter M. Dziuk taken in Aitkin County and his garden, and in Arkansas and Louisiana.
Have you seen this plant in Minnesota, or have any other comments about it?