White Clover Identification – Trifolium repens

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This post is part of our “100 Plants and Mushrooms” series. Here, you’ll see the plant’s main parts – its leaves, flowers, fruits, and more – all with key identification features.

You might have seen it, or even felt its soft touch beneath your shoes while walking across a lawn. Meet the White Clover, known in the world of science as Trifolium repens. This plant, a member of the Fabaceae family (or simply, the pea family), hails from Europe. But don’t be surprised if you find it popping up in fields or roadsides across North America.

Another name for this little groundcover is ‘Dutch Clover’. With a life cycle that keeps it coming back year after year, it’s a perennial. Standing only 3 to 6 inches tall, it might seem modest, but this plant packs a punch in the benefits it brings. It’s a dynamo when it comes to improving soil health. It has the superpower of ‘nitrogen fixation’. In simpler terms, it can take nitrogen from the air and convert it into a form plants can use, naturally enriching the soil. And animals seem to love it too. Livestock often munch on it, making it an important forage plant.

White Clover: Key Parts in Photos

How to identify White Clover

The tiny white flowers of the White Clover bunch together in a round cluster, giving it a distinct appearance. Each of these flowers looks a bit like a mini pea-flower. Over time, these pristine white petals can fade, taking on a pinkish hue. The flower head perches on a slender stalk, which stretches about 3 inches long. They tend to stand slightly taller than the surrounding leaves, making them somewhat easier to spot.

Here’s where the name ‘trifolium’ makes sense. Each leaf of this plant is made up of three smaller leaflets. This pattern of leaves is called ‘palmate’, which means the leaflets all join at a single point, much like fingers attached to the palm of a hand. A fun thing to note is a white crescent-like marking often found on the leaflets. While not always present, it’s a common feature.

Lying low, the stems of the White Clover stretch out horizontally along the ground. They can grow up to 12 inches long. These stems root down at various points, helping the plant spread and cover ground effectively.

When fall arrives, keep an eye out for brown or copper-colored pods. These pods house tiny seeds, generally numbering between four to six.

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