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Colorful clover can be found everywhere in nature and on agricultural land. About 245 different varieties belong to the plant genus Trifolium. In general usage, however, other related genera such as wood sorrel (Oxalis), trefoil (Lotus), sweet clover (Melilotus) or snail clover (Medicago) are also included, which are not always easy to distinguish and identify. In this article we present the most common types of clover.


In the following article we present 15 different types of clover. This is how clover can be easily identified.

alexandrine clover

This clover is originally from Egypt, which is why it is sometimes referred to as Egyptian clover. It is one of the clover species that can only be found in cultivation, since the plants are not hardy and are therefore only cultivated once a year. The alexandrine clover (bot. Trifolium alexandrinum) is preferably cultivated as a catch crop in fields or as a forage plant for livestock and wild animals. It is a common substitute for red clover on agricultural land.

  • Appearance: herbaceous with prostrate stems, forms a lawn
  • Blossom: long-stalked, terminal, spherical, light honey scent
  • Flower color: yellowish-white
  • Flowering period: May to September
  • Leaves: alternate, long-stalked, threefold pinnate, leaves obovate and finely pinnate
  • growth height: up to about 100 centimeters
  • Distribution: Middle East, North Africa, in cultivation worldwide since the 1950s
  • Habitat: Lawns, meadows, roadsides, agricultural land

alpine clover

Alpine clover (bot. T. alpinum) is one of the most beautiful clover species found in Europe. It forms remarkably large and strongly scented flowers. The species is not only endemic to the Alps, but also occurs in other European mountains such as the Pyrenees from an altitude of 1700 meters and is a valuable forage plant for wild and grazing animals.
Appearance: Perennial, herbaceous, develops taproots up to one meter deep

  • Flowers: up to two and a half centimeters long, few flowers, loosely composed flower heads
  • Flower color: crimson, strongly scented
  • Flowering period: June to August
  • Leaves: basal, petiole up to five centimeters long, tripartite pinnate leaves, each with partial leaves up to ten centimeters long
  • Growth height: up to 20 centimeters
  • Location: lime-poor meadows

Arabian snail clover

This clover is also one of the varieties that are not native to Germany. The species, often referred to in literature as spotted snail clover, is originally native to the Mediterranean region, but is now widespread almost all over the world. Especially in southern Germany, Medicago arabica is considered a rare but firmly naturalized neophyte and has been found here since the end of the 19th century.

  • Appearance: annual, herbaceous with mostly prostrate stems, stems are hairy
  • Flowers: Flower clusters with one to five individual flowers
  • Flower color: yellow
  • Flowering time: April to June
  • Leaves: alternate, composed of three broadly ovate to heart-shaped leaves
  • Growth height: up to 50 centimeters
  • Habitat: Badlands and roadsides with nutrient-rich and moderately dry clay and gravel soils
  • Characteristics: brown spot on the upper side of the leaves

Upright Wood Sorrel

Originally, the upright sorrel (botanically Oxalis fontana, also Oxalis stricta) migrated from North America and East Asia to Central Europe, but is now widespread. There is a red-leaved variant of the species (bot. Oxalis fontana var. 'Rufa'), which is a decorative and easy-care ornamental plant and is popular for planting in flower beds.

  • Appearance: annual, herbaceous with stems that initially grow upright and later prostrate, rhizome creeping underground
  • Flowers: in fives, are in loose racemes
  • Flower color: light yellow
  • Flowering time: April to October
  • Leaves: Light green, threefold pinnate, leaves and stems are hairy
  • Growth height: up to 40 centimeters
  • Habitat: primarily on fresh, nutrient-rich loamy soil, on fields, along roadsides, in cemeteries and in gardens

Bastard Snail Clover

Also known as hybrid lucerne (bot. Medicago sativa ssp. varia), this species is a hybrid of the related varieties Medicago sativa (lucerne) and Medicago falcata (sickle clover). The plant is now more widespread than its parent species and is very common both in culture and in its natural form. Both the ripe legumes and the taproot are edible, and planting is also used to secure embankments and improve the soil.

  • Appearance: persistent, ascending to upright, branched to shrub-like
  • Flower: quite small, in long-stalked racemes
  • Flower color: blue to dark violet, also variants with greenish-yellow or greenish-white flowers
  • Flowering period: June to August
  • Leaves: Alternate, pinnate in threes with elongate partial leaves
  • Growth height up to 80 centimeters
  • Habitat: primarily on dry grassland and dry meadows, along roadsides, field edges and the edges of bushes

bitter clover

The species, also known as buckbean (bot. Menyanthes trifoliata), is something very special among the clover species: it mainly grows on wet meadows and prefers damp to wet habitats. For this reason, bitter clover, which has become rare in its natural habitat, is often used to plant garden pond edges.

  • Appearance: persistent, loose, carpet-forming
  • Flower: racemose
  • Flower color: pink, white
  • Flowering period: May to June
  • Leaves: oval, tripinnate
  • Growth height: up to 30 centimeters

field clover

Field clover (bot. T. campestre) is one of the varieties of the clover genus that are widely used as fodder and fertilizer plants. The species is preferably planted as a soil improver, but also occurs in nature in many locations. Here you will find it primarily on dry to semi-dry grassland, on fresh meadows, on embankments and along fields. Field clover is a so-called pointer species that characterizes a poor soil.

  • Appearance: annual, herbaceous, grows upright to prostrate
  • flower: small, fivefold
  • Flower color: yellow
  • Flowering period: June to September
  • Leaves: small, dark green, ovate, fanned out in three parts
  • Growth height: up to 30 centimeters

Yellow sweet clover

The species, also known as sweet clover (bot. Melilotus officinalis) or honey clover, is widespread in Europe and can be found primarily on the edges of stony paths and fields. It is a plant that has been used in folk medicine for centuries, but is also often planted as bee pasture in natural gardens.

  • Appearance: Perennial, upright and branched
  • Flower: racemose, up to ten centimeters long
  • Flower color: yellow
  • Flowering period: June to September
  • Leaves: alternate, imparipinnate, forms stipules
  • Growth height: up to 100 centimeters, sometimes up to 200 centimeters

rabbit clover

Hare clover (bot. T. arvense), also known as field clover or cat clover, has an inflorescence reminiscent of willow catkins and is one of the most attractive types of clover. The annual clover has probably been cultivated as a medicinal plant since prehistoric times and can still be found in large numbers on sandy to rocky and dry locations throughout Europe.

  • Appearance: annual, herbaceous
  • Flower: reminiscent of pussy willow, long hairy
  • Flower color: white-reddish
  • Flowering period: June to July
  • Leaves: alternate, threefold, lanceolate, serrated pinnate
  • Growth height: up to 30 centimeters

Tall sweet clover

Sweet clover (bot. Melilotus altissimus) is easily confused with sweet clover. In order to identify the species correctly, a look at the fruits is particularly informative: In contrast to the bare fruits of the sweet clover, the fruits are covered with soft hairs. The species was once widespread between Europe and Japan, but has now become rather rare. The species prefers to grow on calcareous and nitrogenous, salty soils.

  • Appearance: biennial, herbaceous, branched, erect or arching
  • Flower: racemose
  • Flower color: bright yellow
  • Flowering period: July to September
  • Leaves: obovate and dentate, imperforate stipules
  • Growth height: up to 120 centimeters

Horn clover

In Germany, the common trefoil (bot. Lotus corniculatus) is widespread, and the species is also often cultivated as a fodder plant and soil conditioner. The pretty plant is also often found in gardens, but can quickly become a problem due to its proliferation. The species is mainly determined by the eponymous, curved and narrow legumes.

  • Appearance: herbaceous
  • Flowers: butterfly-like, arranged in umbels
  • Flower color: bright yellow
  • Flowering period: June to August
  • Leaves: imparipinnate, obovate to elongate pinnate leaves
  • Growth height: up to 40 centimeters
  • Habitat: heaths, pastures, roadsides, pine forests, on sea coasts

horn sorrel

Unlike other desirable clover species, horned sorrel can become a problem in the garden. Horn clover (bot. Oxalis corniculata) spreads mainly in lawns and is difficult to remove.

  • Appearance: Annual to perennial, short main shoots with creeping side shoots
  • Flower: five-pointed flower stars
  • Flower color: yellow
  • Flowering period: May to October
  • Leaves: Alternate, three-part pinnate, typical clover leaves
  • Growth height: up to 20 centimeters

White sweet clover

Melilotus albus is a clover that is widespread throughout Europe and is often found together with the yellow flowering sweet clover. It mainly grows along roadsides, along railway lines, in gravel pits and on rubble dumps. The species is easy to identify during flowering by its characteristic flower shape.

  • Appearance: biennial, herbaceous
  • Flowers: long, upright racemes with numerous individual flowers
  • Flower color: white
  • Flowering period: July to September
  • Leaves: alternate, three-fingered, oblong-lanceolate, toothed pinnate leaves
  • Growth height: up to 150 centimeters

white clover

Along with red clover, white clover or creeping clover (bot. Trifolium repens) is also one of the most common and probably also the most well-known types of clover. The species prefers to grow on nitrogenous soils in meadows and fields as well as along roadsides. Furthermore, this clover is not only an important fodder plant, but can also be used as a lawn substitute due to its tread resistance.

  • Appearance: Perennial, herbaceous, up to 70 centimeters deep taproot
  • Flowers: spherical with up to 80 tiny individual flowers, fragrant
  • Flower color: white
  • Flowering period: May to October
  • Leaves: in threes with a finely toothed margin
  • Growth height: up to 20 centimeters
  • Characteristics: typical leaf markings with narrow, arched, white-grey stripes on a dark green background

Meadow clover / red clover

A particularly colorful clover is red clover (bot. Trifolium pratense), which is a cultivar of the meadow clover that is widespread in Europe and is often cultivated as a forage plant. The species grows primarily on rich meadows, in sparse forests and on fields and prefers fresh, nutrient-rich loam and clay soil.

  • Appearance: persistent, herbaceous, upright
  • Flowers: spherical, multi-flowered inflorescences
  • Flower color: reddish-purple
  • Flowering period: June to September
  • Leaves: Alternate, pinnate in three parts, slightly hairy
  • Growth height: up to 80 centimeters

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