White Clover

Trifolium repens L.

Family: Fabaceae.

Names:

Trifolium is from the Latin tres meaning 3 and folium meaning leaf and refers to the 3 leaflets.
Repens is from the Latin repe meaning to creep referring to the creeping habit of the stems.
White Clover because it has white flower heads and often white bands on the leaflets.

Other names:

Dutch Clover

Summary:

A large creeping perennial clover, up to 1 m wide that roots at the nodes with hairless leaves and stems and long, often hairy petioles and many white to pink flowers in loose globular heads in spring and summer. The leaflets often have a white, V shaped band.
Native to Europe it flowers from winter to summer.

Description:

Cotyledons:

Two. Small.

First Leaves:

First leaf has only one 'spade' leaflet. Second and later leaves have 3 leaflets.

Leaves:

Trifoliate. Alternate.
Stipules - 6-11 mm long, oblong to triangular with a short narrow point, striped.
Petiole - Up to 150 mm long. Often hairy.
Blade - Of leaflet, oval to heart shaped, 5-20 mm long x 5-14 mm wide, (Usually 5-8 mm long but in wet sites may be up to 30 mm long) Obvious veins. Tip rounded to indented. Edges with fine teeth. Base tapered to squarish. Surface hairless and often have white, V shaped bands near the base.

Stems:

Solid, branched, creeping and erect, up to 1000 mm long . Hairless. Root at the nodes, rhizomatous and stoloniferous.

Flower head:

In axils, on long stalks (peduncles) that are usually longer than the petioles, loosely spherical, 13-25 mm diameter, 30-40 flowered. Flowers initially erect and turn downwards as they form pods. Flowers on short stalks (pedicels)

Flowers:

White to pinkish, pea type.
On stalks, initially upright but bend back as the fruit forms.
Ovary -
Calyx - 4-5 mm long. Tube is membranous and 2-3 mm long, 10 veined, striped, hairless inside and outside.
5 lobes, unequal, narrowly triangular, 1.5-2 mm long (almost as long as tube), green centre and white edges, hairless or a few hairs.
Petals - white when young and turning pinkish with age, 6-10 mm long, narrow. Standard longer than the calyx tube and usually twice as long as the calyx. Limb of standard oblong, rounded, and occasionally toothed. Keel slightly shorter than the wings with an obtuse tip.
Stamens - 10 with 9 in a group.
Anthers -

Fruit:

Oblong, pod, 4 mm long x 2 mm wide, 1-7 seeded, slightly constricted between the seeds, partly hidden by the persistent calyx.

Seeds:

Yellow brown, globular to kidney shaped, 1 mm wide.

Roots:

Below ground rhizomes and above ground stolons.

Key Characters:

Creeping hairless stems. Leaflets hairless and usually have a white V shaped bands across them. Many white to pinkish flowers in heads on long peduncles. Calyx 10 nerved, not bladdery after flowering. Calyx throat open and hairless inside. Pod usually 3-4 seeded. Perennial.

Biology:

Life cycle:

Perennial. The main growth is in spring. Flowers August - January.

Physiology:

Has symbiotic rhizobia in nodules on the roots that fix atmospheric nitrogen.

Reproduction:

By seeds and creeping stems that root at the nodes.

Flowering times:

October to April in SA.
August to January in Perth.
Spring and summer in WA.
Mainly August to February in SE Australia.

Seed Biology and Germination:

Vegetative Propagules:

Creeping stems that root at the nodes.

Hybrids:

Several commercial lines that have various leaf markings.

Allelopathy:

Population Dynamics and Dispersal:

Long distance dispersal is mainly by intentional planting, dumping of garden refuse, in nursery pots and in lawn seed and revegetation seed mixes
Local spread is mainly by seed and creeping stems that root at the nodes. Animals spread it by both external and internal transport.
Less vigorous than Subterranean Clover which tends to displace it in many situations.

Origin and History:

Europe. Western Asia.

Distribution:

ACT, NSW, QLD, SA, TAS, VIC, WA.

Courtesy Australia's Virtual Herbarium.

Habitats:

Cool areas with summer moisture.
In mountain gullies at high elevations.

Climate:

Temperate.
More abundant in the high rainfall areas.

Soil:

Summer moist.

Plant Associations:

Significance:

Beneficial:

Fodder plant.
Used for honey production.
Sometimes used as lawn.

Detrimental:

Weed of crops, gardens, roadsides, swamps, granite outcrops and disturbed areas.
Major host for Redlegged Earth Mite which may transfer and damage native Bluebells (Wahlenbergia) and native daisies.
Host for light brown apple moth 667.

Toxicity:

Some strains of White Clover can cause HCN poisoning.
May cause Clover disease.
May cause bloat and photo sensitisation.

Symptoms:

Clover Disease
Reduced fertility, difficult lambing, prolapse in ewes. Lactation and urinary obstructions in wethers.

Treatment:

Avoid continual grazing of areas with high proportions of White Clover and other oestrogenic clovers.

Legislation:

None.

Management and Control:

Dicamba and sulfonylurea herbicides provide good control.

Thresholds:

Eradication strategies:

Prevent seed set for 5 years.
Exclude stock to prevent dispersal of seed and burrs.
Hand pull isolated plants in winter before flowering. For small infestations and grass dominant areas an annual application of 10 mL Tordon®75-D in 10 L water in early winter gives excellent control of existing plants and has residual activity to control seedlings.
In bushland, 200 g/ha Lontrel®750 or 50 g/ha Logran® applied in early winter provides reasonably selective control. Use 25 mL wetting agent plus 4 g Lontrel®750 or 1 g Logran® or 0.1 g metsulfuron(600g/L) or 0.1 g chlorsulfuron(750g/kg) in 10 L water for hand spraying when they are actively growing. Repeat annually for several years. Plant tall growing perennial species to reduce re-invasion.
Clovers are relatively tolerant to glyphosate, grazing and mowing.

Herbicide resistance:

Relatively tolerant to glyphosate.

Biological Control:

Related plants:

Alsike Clover (Trifolium hybridum)
Arrowleaf Clover (Trifolium vesiculosum)
Balansa Clover (Trifolium balansae)
Berseem Clover (Trifolium alexandrinum)
Birdsfoot Trefoil (Trifolium ornithopodioides)
Bladder Clover (Trifolium spumosum)
Caucasian Clover (Trifolium ambiguum)
Cluster Clover, Ball Clover (Trifolium glomeratum) is a ground-hugging plant with broad leaflets, 5-22 mm long, and globular heads of pink flowers.
Crimson Clover (Trifolium incarnatum)
Cupped Clover (Trifolium cherleri)
Drooping flowered Clover (Trifolium cernuum)
Gland Clover (Trifolium glanduliferum)
Globe Clover (Trifolium globosum)
Hop Clover (Trifolium campestre) is a sprawling plant with fairly broad leaflets, 4-15 mm long, and globular to ovoid heads of yellow flowers. The standard petal is not furrowed and it has 20-50 flowers in the head.
Hare's Foot Clover (Trifolium arvense) is an erect or sprawling plant with narrow leaflets 5-20 mm long and ovoid to shortly cylindric heads of pink flowers.
Kenya White Clover (Trifolium semipilosum)
Knotted Clover (Trifolium striatum)
Lappa Clover (Trifolium lappaceum)
Ligurian Clover (Trifolium ligusticum)
Narrow-leaved Clover (Trifolium angustifolium) is an erect plant with long narrow leaflets, 15-75 mm long, and cylindric heads of pink flowers.
Purple Clover (Trifolium purpureum)
Red Clover (Trifolium pratense)
Rose Clover (Trifolium hirtum) is a hairy plant with fairly broad leaflets, 10-25 mm long, and globular to semi-globular heads of pink to purple flowers.
Rough Clover (Trifolium scabrum)
Sea Clover (Trifolium squamosum)
Shaftal Clover (Trifolium resupinatum)
Slender Suckling Clover (Trifolium micranthum)
Star Clover (Trifolium stellatum)
Strawberry Clover (Trifolium fragiferum)
Subterranean Clover (Trifolium subterraneum) is a ground-hugging plant with broad leaflets, 6-22 mm long, and few-flowered heads of white flowers that form globular buried burrs.
Suckling Clover (Trifolium dubium) is a ground-hugging plant with loose globular heads of yellow flowers and fairly broad leaflets, 4-12 mm long and the end leaflet has a short stalk. and loose globular heads of yellow flowers.
Suffocated Clover (Trifolium suffocatum)
White Clover (Trifolium repens) is a ground-hugging plant with broad leaflets, 4-12 mm long, which often have a pale v-shaped band and globular heads of white flowers.
Woolly Clover (Trifolium tomentosum) is a sprawling plant with broad leaflets, 4-13 mm long and globular heads of pink flowers which become woolly with age.
Zigzag Clover (Trifolium medium)
Trifolium strictum

Plants of similar appearance:

Subterranean Clover (Trifolium subterraneum) has larger cotyledons and hairy leaves.
Medics, Trefoils, Lotus, Oxalis.

References:

Auld, B.A. and Medd R.W. (1992). Weeds. An illustrated botanical guide to the weeds of Australia. (Inkata Press, Melbourne). P165. Photo.

Black, J.M. (1965). Flora of South Australia. (Government Printer, Adelaide, South Australia). P452. Diagram.

Blood, K. (2001). Environmental weeds: a field guide for SE Australia. (CH Jerram & Associates, Australia). P184. Photo.

Burbidge, N.T. and Gray, M. (1970). Flora of the Australian Capital Territory. (Australian National University Press, Canberra). P221.

Everist, S.L. (1974). Poisonous Plants of Australia. (Angus and Robertson, Sydney). P490.

Hussey, B.M.J., Keighery, G.J., Cousens, R.D., Dodd, J. and Lloyd, S.G. (1997). Western Weeds. A guide to the weeds of Western Australia. (Plant Protection Society of Western Australia, Perth, Western Australia). P160-161. Photo.

Hyde-Wyatt, B.H. and Morris, D.I. (1975). Tasmanian weed handbook. (Tasmanian Department of Agriculture, Hobart, Tasmania). P104-105. Diagram.

Lamp, C. and Collet, F. (1990). A Field Guide to Weeds in Australia. (Inkata Press, Melbourne).

Lazarides, M. and Hince, B. (1993). CSIRO handbook of economic plants of Australia. (CSIRO, Melbourne). #1228.23.

Marchant, N.G., Wheeler, J.R., Rye, B.L., Bennett, E.M., Lander, N.S. and Macfarlane, T.D. (1987). Flora of the Perth Region. (Western Australian Herbarium, Department of Agriculture, Western Australia). P305.

McBarron, E.J. (1983). Poisonous plants. (Inkata Press, Melbourne). P139. Diagram.

Acknowledgments:

Collated by HerbiGuide. Phone 08 98444064 or www.herbiguide.com.au for more information.