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Trifolium hybridum

Trifolium hybridum

Trifolium hybridum (Alsike Clover)
Fabaceae (Pea Family)

Foothills, montane. Meadows, streamsides, disturbed areas. June-September.
Echo Basin Road, July 14, 2015 and far western San Juan National Forest, June 8, 2019.

Trifolium hybridum is a sprawling to erect, short-lived perennial that is easily mistaken for Trifolium pratense (see below) or, even more easily mistaken for, Trifolium repens. Compare the three and you will see some differences in the flower head, the leaf color, and the overall growth habits of the plants.

Most often in its widely spread habitat across the United States (see the map below), T. hybridum flowering stems are erect as shown at top left, but they may also be ascending or even decumbent, as shown in the second photograph at left taken in far western San Juan National Forest of Colorado where the decumbent form is dominant over hundreds of square miles. Stems emanate from a central point (red arrow) and either grow erect or recline along the ground with the flowering tip turning upward.

Most keys separate T. hybridum from T. pratense with one characteristic: the flower head of T. hybridum has a peduncle and is not subtended by stipules or a pair of leaves.

The characteristics that separate T. hybridum from T. repens are more controversial and vary from one flora key to another. All keys do, however, agree that T. hybridum does not creep along the ground, rooting at the nodes; T. repens does. Other (controversial) characteristics to look for:
1) The calyx of T. hybridum is pubescent in the sinuses between the teeth (only according to Weber): the calyx of T. repens is glabrous in this area.
2) The calyx of T. hybridum has no purple spot at the base of each sinus between the teeth; the calyx of T. repens often has a purple spot in this area.
3) Leaflets of T. hybridum are unmottled: those of T. repens often have an inverted V near their base.

Linnaeus named this genus and species in 1753. The common name, Alsike, is for a small town near Uppsala, Sweden (just north of Stockholm), where Linnaeus found this species.

Trifolium hybridum

Trifolium hybridum (Alsike Clover)
Fabaceae (Pea Family)

Foothills, montane. Meadows, streamsides, disturbed areas. June-September.
Echo Basin Road, July 14, 2015 far western San Juan National Forest, June 8, 2019.

Notice that the flower head is not immediately subtended by leaves and that the stem leaves are evenly serrated and are evenly colored, lacking light colored leaf spots which are quite evident in Trifolium pratense.

The plant at left is weeks older than the plant below, as evidenced by the worn, eaten, torn look of its leaves and the spreading/drooping of its individual flowers versus the crisp leaves and tightly packed upright individual flowers below.

                 Trifolium hybridum

Trifolium pratense

Trifolium pratense

Trifolium pratense (Red Clover)
Fabaceae (Pea Family)

Foothills, montane, subalpine. Meadows. May-November.
East Fork of the Dolores River Trail, August 25, 2005.

Red Clover is a wide-spread non-native plant, found from city lots to farm fields to mountain meadows. It is a significant forage crop and a favorite with bees. It grows quickly if given ample moisture and it is quite noticeable because of its large, long-lasting, and colorful flower head and its large leaves, often strikingly two-toned.

Linnaeus named this genus and species in 1753. "Pratense" is Latin for "found in meadows".

Trifolium pratense (Red Clover)
Fabaceae (Pea Family)

Foothills, montane, subalpine. Meadows. May-November.
Lower Calico Trail, June 16, 2004.

In crowded grassy areas, Red Clover will stretch for the sun and grow upright.  In the openings of trails, Red Clover does what it likes best: rest itself sprawling along the ground.

Range map © John Kartesz,
Floristic Synthesis of North America

State Color Key

Species present in state and native
Species present in state and exotic
Species not present in state

County Color Key

Species present and not rare
Species present and rare
Species extirpated (historic)
Species extinct
Species noxious
Species exotic and present
Native species, but adventive in state
Eradicated
Questionable presence

Trifolium hybridum

Range map for Trifolium hybridum

Range map for Trifolium pratense