Trifolium subterraneum L.

Subterranean Clover

Sp. Pl. 767 (1753) APNI

Taxonomic status:Accepted

Occurrence status:Present

Establishment means:Naturalised

Prostrate or decumbent annual herb; stems few, 10–35 cm long, weak, sparingly branched or unbranched, sparsely hairy to glabrescent. Leaves palmately trifoliolate, long-petiolate; leaflets obovate to obcordate, 8–25 mm long, 8–25 mm wide, appressed-hairy on both surfaces, apex notched, upper margins minutely dentate; stipules leafy. Inflorescence with 3–6 fertile flowers and several sterile flowers developing later, axillary, obovoid, becoming globose, c. 15 mm long, c. 5 mm wide, pedunculate; flowers sessile. Fertile calyx 3–4 mm long, glabrous or sparsely pubescent, tube cylindric, many-veined, sometimes red-tipped, distended in fruit, throat open, glabrous, teeth almost as long as tube, subequal, blunt, recurved in pod; sterile calyx with solid, stalk-like tube, teeth linear; corolla 8–14 mm long, white with pink stripes, not persistent; standard elliptic. Fruiting heads globose, c. 10 mm long, 10 mm wide, pushed into the ground by a few seed-bearing calyces and many deflexed sterile ones; pod ovoid to obovoid, c. 3 mm long, somewhat exserted from split calyx tube; seed 1, ovoid, c. 3 mm long, black. Flowers mainly Sep.–Jan.

*Brid, *CVU, *DunT, *EGL, *EGU, *GipP, *Glep, *Gold, *GGr, *HNF, *HSF, *LoM, *MonT, *MuF, *MuM, *NIS, *OtP, *OtR, *SnM, *Strz, *VAlp, *VRiv, *VVP, *WaP, *Wim. Also naturalised WA, SA, Qld, NSW, ACT, Tas. Native to Europe, the Middle East, northern Africa. Grown extensively for pasture improvement and now established across much of Victoria.

Zohary & Heller (1984) recognize 8 varieties based on characteristics of the mature fruit. Trifolium subterraneum in Victoria is a complex comprising numerous cultivars and forms but at least some material can be identified as T. subterraneum var. subterraneum on the basis of the fruit equalling the length of the calyx at maturity.

Source: Jeanes, J.A. (1996). Fabaceae. In: Walsh, N.G.; Entwisle, T.J. (eds), Flora of Victoria Vol. 3, Dicotyledons Winteraceae to Myrtaceae. Inkata Press, Melbourne.
Updated by: Val Stajsic, 2018-12-18
Hero image
Distribution map
life Life
kingdom Plantae
phylum Tracheophyta
superorder Rosanae
order Fabales
family Fabaceae
genus Trifolium
Higher taxa


Source: AVH (2014). Australia's Virtual Herbarium, Council of Heads of Australasian Herbaria, <>. Find Trifolium subterraneum in AVH ; Victorian Biodiversity Atlas, © The State of Victoria, Department of Environment and Primary Industries (published Dec. 2014) Find Trifolium subterraneum in Victorian Biodiversity Atlas
  Bioregion Occurrence status Establishment means
Lowan Mallee present naturalised
Murray Mallee present naturalised
Wimmera present naturalised
Glenelg Plain present naturalised
Bridgewater present naturalised
Victorian Volcanic Plain present naturalised
Victorian Riverina present naturalised
Murray Fans present naturalised
Gippsland Plain present naturalised
Otway Plain present naturalised
Warrnambool Plain present naturalised
Goldfields present naturalised
Central Victorian Uplands present naturalised
Greater Grampians present naturalised
Dundas Tablelands present naturalised
Northern Inland Slopes present naturalised
East Gippsland Lowlands present naturalised
East Gippsland Uplands present naturalised
Highlands-Southern Fall present naturalised
Highlands-Northern Fall present naturalised
Otway Ranges present naturalised
Strzelecki Ranges present naturalised
Monaro Tablelands present naturalised
Victorian Alps present naturalised
Snowy Mountains present naturalised

State distribution

Distribution map
Western Australia
South Australia
New South Wales
Australian Capital Territory