Trifolium pratense L.

First published in Sp. Pl.: 768 (1753)
This species is accepted
The native range of this species is Macaronesia, NW. Africa, Europe to Mongolia and Himalaya. It is a perennial and grows primarily in the temperate biome. It is used as animal food, a poison, a medicine and invertebrate food, has environmental uses and social uses and for food.

Descriptions

Distribution
Biogeografic region: Andean. Elevation range: 1750–3200 m a.s.l. Naturalised in Colombia. Colombian departments: Antioquia, Bogotá DC, Boyacá, Cundinamarca, La Guajira, Magdalena.
Habit
Herb.
Conservation
IUCN Red List Assessment (2021): LC.
Ecology
Habitat according IUCN Habitats Classification: forest and woodland, shrubland, native grassland, artificial - terrestrial.
[UPFC]

The Useful Plants of Boyacá project

Morphology General Habit
Herb.
Conservation
Not Evaluated.
Ecology
Alt. 1750 - 3200 m.
Distribution
Naturalised in Colombia.
[UPB]

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]

Bernal, R., G. Galeano, A. Rodríguez, H. Sarmiento y M. Gutiérrez. 2017. Nombres Comunes de las Plantas de Colombia. http://www.biovirtual.unal.edu.co/nombrescomunes/

Vernacular
carretón, carretón colorado, carretón rojo, trébol, trébol rojo
[UNAL]

Bernal, R., Gradstein, S.R. & Celis, M. (eds.). 2015. Catálogo de plantas y líquenes de Colombia. Instituto de Ciencias Naturales, Universidad Nacional de Colombia, Bogotá. http://catalogoplantasdecolombia.unal.edu.co

Distribution
Naturalizada en Colombia; Alt. 1750 - 3200 m.; Andes.
Morphology General Habit
Hierba
Conservation
No Evaluada
[CPLC]

International Legume Database and Information Service

Conservation
Not Threatened
Ecology
Africa: Mediterranean woodland., Mediterranean grasslands.
Morphology General Habit
Perennial, Not climbing, Herb
Vernacular
Chemen Yoncha, Chyrvonaya Dzyatzelina, Dzentzyalina, Ereknuk Margagetnain, Kanyushyna Lugavaya, Klever Dneprovski, Klever Krasnyi, Klever Lugovoi, Koniczyna Lakowa, Konyushina Luchna, Krasnaya Kuryga, Metsik Punane Ristik, Nugun Khoshoongor, Plavu Abolins
[ILDIS]

IUCN Red List of Threatened Species https://www.iucnredlist.org/species/174713/20156449

Conservation
LC - least concern
[IUCN]

Uses

Use Animal Food
Used as animal food.
Use Environmental
Environmental uses.
Use Gene Sources
Used as gene sources.
Use Food
Used for food.
Use Invertebrate Food
Used as invertebrate food.
Use Medicines
Medical uses.
Use Poisons
Poisons.
Use Social
Social uses.
[UPFC]

Use Animal Food
Eaten by animals (Florez-Cárdenas et al. 2010).
Use Medicines Muscular-Skeletal System Disorders
Flowers - Used to alleviate muscle spasms (Florez-Cárdenas et al. 2010).
Use Medicines Respiratory System Disorders
Flowers - Used in liquid medicines (Florez-Cárdenas et al. 2010).
Use Medicines Unspecified Medicinal Disorders
Medicinal (State of the World's Plants 2016).
[UPB]

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

Use
Domestic, Environmental, Food and Drink, Forage, Medicine, Miscellaneous, Weed
[ILDIS]

Common Names

English
Red clover
Spanish
Carretón.

Sources

  • Catálogo de Plantas y Líquenes de Colombia

    • http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-sa/3.0
  • Colombian resources for Plants made Accessible

    • ColPlantA 2021. Published on the Internet at http://colplanta.org
    • http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0/
  • Herbarium Catalogue Specimens

    • Digital Image © Board of Trustees, RBG Kew http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0/
  • IUCN Categories

    • IUCN Red List of Threatened Species
    • http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-sa/3.0
  • International Legume Database and Information Service

    • International Legume Database and Information Service (ILDIS) V10.39 Nov 2011
    • http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0
  • Kew Backbone Distributions

    • The International Plant Names Index and World Checklist of Vascular Plants 2023. Published on the Internet at http://www.ipni.org and https://powo.science.kew.org/
    • © Copyright 2022 World Checklist of Vascular Plants. http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0
  • Kew Names and Taxonomic Backbone

    • The International Plant Names Index and World Checklist of Vascular Plants 2023. Published on the Internet at http://www.ipni.org and https://powo.science.kew.org/
    • © Copyright 2022 International Plant Names Index and World Checklist of Vascular Plants. http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0
  • Kew Science Photographs

    • Copyright applied to individual images
  • Kew Species Profiles

    • Kew Species Profiles
    • http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-sa/3.0
  • Universidad Nacional de Colombia

    • ColPlantA database
    • http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-sa/3.0
  • Useful Plants and Fungi of Colombia

    • http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-sa/3.0
  • Useful Plants of Boyacá Project

    • ColPlantA database
    • http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-sa/3.0
    • http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0/