The "true" clovers (genus Trifolium
) are herbaceous plants of the pea family Leguminosae or Fabaceae (see LEGUME
) and must be distinguished from bur clovers (Medicago
) and sweet clovers (Melilotus
) of the same family.
The genus Trifolium
contains about 240 species worldwide, occurring naturally in Eurasia (particularly the Mediterranean region), parts of Africa and eastern and western North and South America. White clover is found throughout most temperate regions where it is widely introduced. Clovers are annuals, biennials and perennials and vary enormously in habit. This is an adaptation to a wide range of habitats.
Small, white, yellow, pink or red flowers are borne in dense clusters called heads; most species have trifoliolate leaves but a few more primitive species have 7-11 leaflets.
Nearly 20 European species are grown for FORAGE
in America and Australia, where they are not native. In Canada, red clover (Trifolium pratense
), white or Dutch clover (T. repens
) and, to a lesser extent, alsike clover (T. hybridum
) and crimson clover (T. incarnatum
) are grown. Many short-lived, perennial cultivars of red clover bred for special qualities exist. Most clovers are associated with nitrogen-fixing BACTERIA
Some clovers are low and trailing, others grow to 1 m (artwork by Claire Tremblay).
JOHN M. GILLETT
John M. Gillett & Norman L. Taylor, The World of Clovers (2001).
Links to Other Sites
The Plant List
Search this online database for information about one million plant species from around the world. Also, click on "major plant groups" at the bottom of the page to browse descriptions of species of interest. Fungi and algae are excluded. From the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, in the UK and the Missouri Botanical Garden in the US.
Flora of North America
The FNA website features information on the names, taxonomic relationships, continent-wide distributions, and morphological characteristics of all plants native and naturalized found in North America north of Mexico.