Virginia Tech Weed Identification Guide

Red Clover: Trifolium pratense

Weed Description: A perennial with trifoliate leaves and pink to red flowers.  Red clover is often planted as a component of pasture and forage mixes, but sometimes escapes to become a weed of turfgrass, lawns, landscapes, and orchards.  Red clover is distributed throughout the United States.

Seedlings: Cotyledons are spatula-shaped, 6-7 mm long, without hairs. The first true leaf is solitary, oval in shape, and cut off squarely at the base (truncate).  All subsequent leaves consist of 3 leaflets (trifoliate).

Roots: A fibrous root system and stems that root at the nodes.

Leaves:   Consist of 3 leaflets (trifoliate).  Each leaflet is elliptic in outline, approximately 1/2 to 1 1/4 inches long and about half as wide.  Leaves are usually hairy on both surfaces or sometimes without hairs above and hairy beneath.   Each leaf usually has a light green or white 'V-shaped' marking.

Stems: Growing somewhat prostrate but ranging from 8 to 20 inches in height.  Stems are sometimes without hairs but can be slightly hairy, and root at the nodes.

Flowers:  Occur in round to oval heads usually on flower stalks (peduncles) less than 5 mm long, but also without flower stalks (sessile).  Individual flower heads are pink to red in color, 1/2 to 1 1/4 inches in length.

Fruit: A pod known as a legume, 4 to 5 mm long.

Identifying Characteristics: The trifoliate leaves and pink to red flowers are both key features that help in the identification of red clover.  There are many other clover species that are both planted in forages and occur as weeds.  White Clover (Trifolium repens) is similar but is generally more prostrate, has smaller leaflets, and much smaller, white flowers.