Trifolium pratense L.

Red Clover

Sp. Pl. 768 (1753) APNI

Taxonomic status:Accepted

Occurrence status:Present

Establishment means:Naturalised

Erect or decumbent perennial herb; stems numerous, 40–100 cm long, simple or branched, sparingly hairy to glabrous. Leaves palmately trifoliolate, short- to long-petiolate; leaflets elliptic to obovate or suborbicular, mostly 30–60 mm long, 10–35 mm wide, appressed-hairy on both or just lower surface, sometimes spotted, apex acute, obtuse or retuse, margins virtually entire; stipules adnate to petioles, membranous, veined, hairy or glabrescent. Inflorescence many-flowered, terminal, globose or ovoid, 20–30 mm long, 20–30 mm wide, solitary or paired, usually sessile; flowers sessile. Calyx c. 7 mm long, tube cylindric-campanulate, 10-veined, throat narrowed by an annular thickening in fruit, teeth unequal, hairy, often reddish, lower tooth about twice as long as tube, others about equal to tube, blunt, erect in fruit; corolla 15–18 mm long, pink to purple, persistent; standard notched, longer than wings and keel. Pod ovoid, 2–4 mm long, included in calyx tube; seed 1, oblong-ovoid, c. 1.5 mm long, yellow, brown or violet, tuberculate. Flowers mainly Oct.–May.

*CVU, *EGL, *EGU, *GipP, *GGr, *HNF, *HSF, *NIS, *VAlp, *VRiv, *VVP, *WaP. Also naturalised WA, Qld, NSW, ACT, Tas. Native to Europe, the Middle East, northern Africa. Widely cultivated world-wide and an occasional weed in Victoria, mostly in higher rainfall areas.

Trifolium pratense is a very polymorphic species. Zohary & Heller (1984) tentatively recognize 6 varieties based mainly on the indumentum and the sizes of plants and their leaflets and inflorescences. Using these criteria, most of the Victorian material examined (and that of other States) falls within var. sativum Schreb., although there is a large degree of variation and intermediates do occur.

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

Zohary M. & Heller, D. (1984). The genus Trifolium, Israel Academy of Sciences and Humanities, Jerusalem.

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 pratense in AVH ; Victorian Biodiversity Atlas, © The State of Victoria, Department of Environment and Primary Industries (published Dec. 2014) Find Trifolium pratense in Victorian Biodiversity Atlas
  Bioregion Occurrence status Establishment means
Victorian Volcanic Plain present naturalised
Victorian Riverina present naturalised
Gippsland Plain present naturalised
Warrnambool Plain present naturalised
Central Victorian Uplands present naturalised
Greater Grampians 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
Victorian Alps present naturalised

State distribution

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