1. Family: Fabaceae Lindl.
    1. Genus: Trifolium Tourn. ex L.
      1. Trifolium pratense L.

        Commonly known as red clover in many parts of the English speaking world, Trifolium pratense is extensively grown as a forage crop for pasturage, hay and green manure, and is reported to be excellent for livestock and poultry. The species is a nitrogen-fixer and has long been used in crop rotation systems to enrich the soil. Several novel varieties and subspecies of the plant have been described, but its infraspecific (within the species) classification is complex. Red clover has been widely used in folk medicine for conditions ranging from athlete’s foot to constipation. An extract of the flowers has been used for cancerous ulcers and corns. Red clover contains isoflavones and a herbal product sold in tablet form is taken by women during and after the menopause.

    [KSP]

    Kew Species Profiles

    General Description

    Commonly known as red clover in many parts of the English speaking world, Trifolium pratense is extensively grown as a forage crop for pasturage, hay and green manure, and is reported to be excellent for livestock and poultry. The species is a nitrogen-fixer and has long been used in crop rotation systems to enrich the soil. Several novel varieties and subspecies of the plant have been described, but its infraspecific (within the species) classification is complex. Red clover has been widely used in folk medicine for conditions ranging from athlete’s foot to constipation. An extract of the flowers has been used for cancerous ulcers and corns. Red clover contains isoflavones and a herbal product sold in tablet form is taken by women during and after the menopause.

    Species Profile
    Geography and distribution

    Native to Europe and Northern Asia. Widely cultivated as a forage plant across the world. Full distribution information is available from the International Legume Database and Information Service (ILDIS).

    Description

    Overview: A perennial, sometimes biennial herb.

    Leaves: Leaves with three leaflets, basal leaves with a long leaf stalk, upper leaves with a shorter or no stalk. A pair of stipules at the leaf base partly clasp the leaf stalk but have free tapering tips.

    Flowers: The flowering head is short-stalked or stalkless and comprises many flowers which are about 10-15 mm long and a rose-purple colour (there is also a creamy-white form). The bell-shaped calyx is characteristically 10-veined and has 5 linear lobes (often referred to as calyx teeth); the petals are about twice the calyx length.

    Fruits: The small oblong-ovoid fruit pod is retained within the withering flower and opens to shed the seeds.

    Threats and conservation

    Not considered to be threatened, hence no conservation measures are needed, but red clover is attacked by many fungi, sometimes causing serious losses.

    Uses

    Agriculture

    Red clover is used as fodder for livestock and poultry. It is planted in pastures with grass, or fed to animals as hay and silage. It is also used as a cover crop and green manure for soil improvement; it suppresses weeds and boosts nitrogen levels in the soil while the root system improves the soil structure.

    Red clover attracts a variety of insects and is useful for improving the biodiversity of agricultural systems, and can be used as a bee plant for honey production.

    Medicinal

    A tea of the flowering heads and various other topical preparations of the plant have been used for medicinal purposes in Europe. Red clover has been widely used in folk medicine for conditions ranging from athlete’s foot to constipation. An extract of the flowers has been used for cancerous ulcers and corns. Red clover contains isoflavones and a herbal product sold in tablet form is taken by women during and after the menopause.

    Known hazards

    Red clover is generally recognised as safe (US Food & Drug Administration). However, caution should be exercised in taking isoflavone-containing herbal products from  Trifolium pratense  if some prescription medicines are being taken, particularly in some hormone therapies and for blood-thinning. Red clover products should also be avoided during pregnancy and lactation.

    Millennium Seed Bank: Seed storage

    Kew's Millennium Seed Bank Partnership aims to save plant life world wide, focusing on plants under threat and those of most use in the future. Seeds are dried, packaged and stored at a sub-zero temperature in our seed bank vault.

    A collection of Trifolium pratense seeds is held in Kew’s Millennium Seed Bank based at Wakehurst in West Sussex.

    Search Kew's Seed Information Database for further information on Trifolium pratense seeds

    Cultivation

    Grown from seed and sometimes planted with grass seed; clover-grass hay cures more rapidly than pure clover hay, and produces more hay per hectare. Animals are more likely to bloat on pure clover hay than clover-grass hay. Red clover and red clover-grass pastures can be grazed or cut green and fed to livestock and poultry. Red clover is one of the better legume species for renovating old pastures and is widely used in crop rotation systems.

    The flowers are bee-pollinated and a seed crop can be harvested 25 to 30 days after full bloom by which time the flower heads have turned black.

    Ecology
    Wet and dry grassland, woodland, forest margins, field borders and paths, widely planted as pasture.
    Conservation
    Classified as Least Concern (LC) by the IUCN Red List.
    Hazards

    Generally recognised as safe (US Food & Drug Administration). However, caution is advised in some instances - more information below.

    [KSP]
    Use
    Fodder for livestock, soil improvement, attracting insects, honey production, medicinal.

    Images

    Distribution

    Found In:

    Afghanistan, Albania, Algeria, Altay, Austria, Azores, Baltic States, Belarus, Belgium, Bulgaria, Buryatiya, Canary Is., Central European Rus, Corse, Czechoslovakia, Denmark, East European Russia, East Himalaya, Finland, France, Føroyar, Germany, Great Britain, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, India, Iran, Iraq, Ireland, Irkutsk, Italy, Kazakhstan, Kirgizstan, Krasnoyarsk, Krym, Madeira, Mongolia, Morocco, Netherlands, North Caucasus, North European Russi, Northwest European R, Norway, Pakistan, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Sardegna, Sicilia, South European Russi, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Tadzhikistan, Transcaucasus, Tunisia, Turkey-in-Europe, Turkmenistan, Tuva, Ukraine, Uzbekistan, West Himalaya, West Siberia, Yugoslavia

    Introduced Into:

    Alabama, Aleutian Is., Amur, Antipodean Is., Argentina Northeast, Argentina South, Bahamas, Bermuda, Brazil South, Cape Provinces, Chatham Is., Chile Central, Chile South, China North-Central, China South-Central, China Southeast, Chita, Colombia, Colorado, Costa Rica, Cuba, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Falkland Is., Guatemala, Illinois, Jawa, Kamchatka, Kermadec Is., Khabarovsk, Korea, Kuril Is., KwaZulu-Natal, Magadan, Manchuria, Mexico Southwest, Nepal, New Mexico, New South Wales, New Zealand North, New Zealand South, Northern Provinces, Peru, Primorye, Puerto Rico, Queensland, Sakhalin, South Australia, Sri Lanka, Taiwan, Tasmania, Tennessee, Uruguay, Venezuela, Victoria, Western Australia, Xinjiang, Yakutskiya

    Common Names

    English
    Red clover

    Trifolium pratense L. appears in other Kew resources:

    Date Identified Reference Herbarium Specimen Type Status
    Sep 20, 1991 Silva, J.M. [703], Brazil K000931824
    Des Moulins [s.n.], France K000999651
    Salzmann, P. [s.n.], Corse K000999652
    Furse, P. [2174], Iran K000744152
    Lindsay, N. [989], Iran K000744153
    Cowan [1706], Iran K000744154
    Cowan [2025], Iran K000744155
    Sayer [55], Iran K000744157
    Crisp, P. [85], Iran K000744158
    Rechinger, K.H. [41235], Iran K000744159
    Rechinger, K.H. [48562], Iran K000744160
    Guest [2843], Iraq K000744161
    Gillett, J.B. [9490], Iraq K000744162
    Rawi, A. [13700], Iraq K000744163
    Rawi, A. [13716], Iraq K000744164
    Rawi, A. [13779], Iraq K000744165
    Rawi, A. [9150], Iraq K000744166
    Springfield, H.W [16334], Iraq K000744167
    Omar, S [38427], Iraq K000744168
    Cope, T.A. [RBG 447], Great Britain K000914220
    Davis, P.H. [45146], Turkey K000764707
    Davis, P.H. [44540], Turkey K000764708
    Furse, P. [3588], Turkey K000764712
    Davis, P.H. [20643], Turkey K000764714
    Davis, P.H. [22425], Turkey K000764715
    Davis, P.H. [D. 30473], Turkey K000764716
    Davis, P.H. [D. 31597], Turkey K000764718
    Davis, P.H. [22987], Turkey K000764719
    Davis, P.H. [D. 29517], Turkey K000764720
    Furse, P. [3902], Turkey K000764722
    Davis, P.H. [D. 32068], Turkey K000764723
    Hennipman, E [1805], Turkey K000764725
    Davis, P.H. [46250], Turkey K000764726
    Davis, P.H. [47597], Turkey K000764727
    Davis, P.H. [44199], Turkey K000764728
    Bazargan-Arazm [11794], Iran K000764730
    Archibald, J.C. [3197], Iran K000764731
    Gilliat-Smith, B. [1663], Iran K000764733
    Bowles [2305], Iran K000764734
    Bowles [2564], Iran K000764735
    Cowan [2219], Iran K000764738
    Furse, P. [2385], Iran K000764739

    First published in Sp. Pl.: 768 (1753)

    Accepted in:

    • [1] Ackerfield, J. (2015) Flora of Colorado . BRIT Press
    • [2] Bailey, C. & al. (2015) Guide to the Vascular Plants of Tennessee . University of Tennessee press
    • [3] (2014) Australian Plant Census (APC) . Council of Heads of Australian Herbaria. http://www.anbg.gov.au/chah/apc/index.html
    • [4] (2014) Journal of the Botanical Research Institute of Texas 8: 271-303
    • [5] Chang, C.S., Kim, H. & Chang, K.S. (2014) Provisional checklist of vascular plants for the Korea peninsula flora (KPF) . DESIGNPOST
    • [6] Mohlenbrock, R.H. (2014) Vascular Flora of Illinois. A Field Guide , ed. 4: 1-536. Southern Illinois University Press, Carbondale
    • [7] (2012) Flora Neomexicana , ed. 2, 1: 1-599. Range Science Herbarium, Las Cruces, New Mexico
    • [8] (2012) Index synonymique de la flore d'Afrique du nord 4: 1-431. Éditions des conservatoire et jardin botaniques, Genève
    • [9] (2012) Phytotaxonomy 12: 33-56
    • [10] (2012) Smithsonian Contributions to Botany 98: 1-1192
    • [11] Garcia-Mendoza, A.J. & Meave, J.A. (eds.) (2012) Diversidad florística de Oaxaca: de musgos a angiospermas (colecciones y listas de especies) , ed. 2: 1-351. Instituto de Biología, Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México
    • [12] (2011) Norrlinia 24: 1-166
    • [13] Idárraga-Piedrahita, A., Ortiz, R.D.C., Callejas Posada, R. & Merello, M. (eds.) (2011) Flora de Antioquia: Catálogo de las Plantas Vasculares 2: 1-939. Universidad de Antioquia, Medellín
    • [14] Kral, R., Diamond, A.R., Ginzbarg, S.L., Hansen, C.J., Haynes, R.R., Keener, B.R., Lelong, M.G., Spaulding, D.D. & Woods, M. (2011) Annotated checklist of the vascular plants of Alabama . Botanical reseach institute of Texas
    • [15] (2010) Monographs in Systematic Botany from the Missouri Botanical Garden 119: 1-970. Missouri Botanical Garden
    • [16] Flora of China Editorial Committee (2010) Flora of China 10: 1-642. Science Press (Beijing) & Missouri Botanical Garden Press (St. Louis)
    • [17] (2009) Turczaninowia 12(1-2): 17-40
    • [18] (2008) Gayana. Botánica 65: 153-197
    • [19] (2008) Monographs in Systematic Botany from the Missouri Botanical Garden 107: 1-3348. Missouri Botanical Garden
    • [20] Hokche, O., Berry, P.E. & Huber, O. (eds.) (2008) Nuevo Catálogo de la Flora Vascular de Venezuela . Fundación Instituto Botánico de Venezuela
    • [24] Lock, J.M. & Ford, C.S. (2004) Legumes of Malesia a Check-List . Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew
    • [25] (2003) Strelitzia 14: 1-1231. National Botanical Institute, Pretoria
    • [26] Kumar, S. & Sane, P.V. (2003) Legumes of South Asia. A Checklist . Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew
    • [27] (2002) Botanical Journal of Scotland 54: 153-190
    • [28] Jørgensen, P.M. & León-Yánes, S. (eds.) (1999) Catalogue of the Vascular Plants of Ecuador . Missouri Botanical Garden Press, St. Louis
    • [29] Lee, W.T. (1996) Lineamenta Florae Koreae . Soul T'ukpyolsi: Ak'ademi Sojok
    • [30] Yakovlev, G.P., Sytin, A.K. & Roskov, Y.R. (1996) Legumes of Northern Eurasia. A checklist . Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew
    • [31] (1993) Monographs in Systematic Botany from the Missouri Botanical Garden 45: i-xl, 1-1286. Missouri Botanical Garden
    • [33] (1989 publ. 1990) Flora of Ethiopia and Eritrea 3: 1-659. The National Herbarium, Addis Ababa University, Ethiopia & The Department of Systematic Botany, Upps
    • [34] Lock, J.M. (1989) Legumes of Africa a check-list . Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew
    • [35] (1988) Flora of New Zealand 4: 1-1365. Botany division, D.S.I.R., Christchurch
    • [37] (1984) Flora Iranica 157: 1-499. Naturhistorisches Museums Wien
    • [39] (1974) Flora of Iraq 3: 1-662. Ministry of Agriculture & Agrarian Reform, Baghdad
    • [41] (1946) Fieldiana Botany New Series 24(5): 1-502. Field Museum of Natural History

    Literature

    • [21] Barnes, J., Anderson, L. A., Phillipson, D. (2007). Herbal Medicines (3rd Edn.). Pharmaceutical Press
    • [22] Managing Cover Crops Profitability 3rd Edition (2007). Sustainable Agriculture Network, Beltsville.
    • [23] Lewis, G., Schrire, B. Mackinder, B. & Lock, J. M. (eds) (2005). Legumes of the World. Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew.
    • [32] Tutin, T.G. & al. (eds.) (1993) Flora Europaea ed. 2, 1: 1-581. Cambridge University Press
    • [36] Lust, J. B. (1986). The Herb Book. Bantam, Toronto.
    • [38] Duke, J. A. (1981). Handbook of Legumes of World Economic Importance. Plenum Press, New York and London.
    • [40] Hultén, E.O.G. (1960) Flora of the Aleutian Islands and westernmost Alaska Peninsula: with notes on the flora of Commander Islands , ed. 2: 1-376. Weinheim : J. Cramer ; New York : Hafner Pub. Co.
    • [42] Britton, N. (1918) Flora of Bermuda . Charles Scribner's Sons, New York

    Sources

    Kew Names and Taxonomic Backbone
    The International Plant Names Index and World Checklist of Selected Plant Families (2017). Published on the internet at http://www.ipni.org and http://apps.kew.org/wcsp
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