Trifolium pratense (Red Clover)

Plant Info
Also known as:
Family:Fabaceae (Pea)
Life cycle:perennial
Origin:Europe, Asia, Africa
  • Weedy
Habitat:sun; fields, along roads
Bloom season:June - September
Plant height:6 to 36 inches
Wetland Indicator Status:GP: FACU MW: FACU NCNE: FACU
MN county distribution (click map to enlarge):Minnesota county distribution map
National distribution (click map to enlarge):National distribution map

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Detailed Information

Flower: Flower shape: irregular Cluster type: round

[photo of flowers] Round to oval flower heads, ¾ to 1 inch across, on a short stalk, sometimes stalkless, densely packed with small pea-shaped flowers, and 1 or 2 small compound leaves at the base of the cluster. Flowers are dull pink to rosy purple, erect with the upper petal triangular and stretched diagonally, the lateral wings below it angled out hiding the small keel below. The tubular calyx holding the flower can also be smooth or beset with long spreading hairs and has sharp linear teeth that reach the base of the open petals. A plant has several to many flower heads on branching stems.

Leaves and stems: Leaf attachment: alternate Leaf type: compound Leaf type: palmate

[photo of leaves] Leaves are palmately compound in 3s. Leaves near the base of the plant are long stalked, greatly shortened in upper portions to nearly stalkless at the top of the plant. Leaflets are oval-elliptic, ½ to 1½ inch long, ¼ to ½ inch wide, stalkless, finely toothed to toothless, with sparse hairs along the edges and typically with a light colored “V” pattern in the middle of the leaflet.

[photo of stipule] Stipules are oval to elliptic with a sharp point at the tip, and strongly veined. Stems are nearly erect or sprawling and covered with fine flattened hairs. Branching is dense at the base with a few smaller branches from upper leaf axils.


A widely introduced agricultural forage species, Red Clover easily escapes cultivation and is common through out the state in pastures, field margins and road ditches. While not as persistently aggressive as other non-native forage introductions, it claims more than its fair share of photosynthetic real estate.

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More photos

Photos by K. Chayka taken in Ramsey County. Photos by Peter M. Dziuk taken in Anoka County.


Have you seen this plant in Minnesota, or have any other comments about it?

Posted by: Denise - Chisago County, Stacy
on: 2011-07-24 08:59:24

I planted native prairie (about 1 acre) in 2002. I have since had lots of problems with the red clover. It takes over even the bluestem grasses, so I'm always digging them out, and it overshadows many of the natives.

Posted by: Nathan - Lake of the Isles
on: 2015-10-22 11:21:08


Posted by: Dana - Maplewood
on: 2017-04-17 19:29:26

I'm considering replacing my lawn with red, crimson, and white Dutch clover. Are there problems I should be aware of? Thank you! Dana

Posted by: K. Chayka
on: 2017-04-17 21:40:43

Dana, why not use native ground covers, wild strawberry, for example?

Posted by: Ed Murphy - Andover
on: 2021-07-20 11:34:13

Have a steep slope on side lawn (greater than 4/1) and read about red clover sown for erosion control here. Are there better options for slopes up to 1.5/1. Prefer not to build retaining wall?

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