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Trifolium pratense - L.

Common Name Red Clover
Family Fabaceae or Leguminosae
USDA hardiness 5-9
Known Hazards Diseased clover, even if no symptoms of disease are visible, can contain toxic alkaloids[222].
Habitats Meadows, pastures and other grassy places[9], especially on calcareous soils. Usually found on circumneutral soils[17].
Range Europe, including Britain, from Norway south and east to Spain and W. Asia.
Edibility Rating    (3 of 5)
Other Uses    (0 of 5)
Weed Potential No
Medicinal Rating    (3 of 5)
Care
Fully Hardy Moist Soil Full sun
Trifolium pratense Red Clover


(c) Steve Flanagan
Trifolium pratense Red Clover

 

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Summary


Physical Characteristics

 icon of manicon of flower
Trifolium pratense is a PERENNIAL growing to 0.6 m (2ft) by 0.6 m (2ft in) at a medium rate.
It is hardy to zone (UK) 6 and is not frost tender. It is in flower from May to September, and the seeds ripen from July to October. The species is hermaphrodite (has both male and female organs) and is pollinated by Bees, Lepidoptera (Moths & Butterflies).
It can fix Nitrogen.
It is noted for attracting wildlife.
Suitable for: light (sandy), medium (loamy) and heavy (clay) soils, prefers well-drained soil and can grow in nutritionally poor soil. Suitable pH: acid, neutral and basic (alkaline) soils. It cannot grow in the shade. It prefers moist soil. The plant can tolerates strong winds but not maritime exposure.

Synonyms

Habitats

 Meadow;

Edible Uses

Edible Parts: Flowers;  Leaves;  Root;  Seed.
Edible Uses: Condiment;  Tea.

Leaves and young flowering heads - raw or cooked[2, 55, 105, 183]. The young leaves are harvested before the plant comes into flower, and are used in salads, soups etc[9]. On their own they can be used as a vegetable, cooked like spinach[9].The leaves are best cooked[172]. They can be dried, powdered and sprinkled on foods such as boiled rice[183]. The leaves contain 81% water, 4% protein, 0.7% fat, 2.6% fibre and 2% ash[218]. The seed can be sprouted and used in salads. A crisp texture and more robust flavour than alfalfa (Medicago sativa)[183]. The seeds are reported as containing trypsin inhibitors[218]. These can interfere with certain enzymes that help in the digestion of proteins, but are normally destroyed if the seed is sprouted first. Flowers and seed pods - dried, ground into a powder and used as a flour[115]. The young flowers can also be eaten raw in salads[144, 172]. Root - cooked[172, 177]. A delicate sweet herb tea is made from the fresh or dried flowers[21, 55, 183]. The dried leaves impart a vanilla flavour to cakes etc[172].

Composition
Figures in grams (g) or miligrams (mg) per 100g of food.
Leaves (Fresh weight)
  • 0 Calories per 100g
  • Water : 81%
  • Protein: 4g; Fat: 0.7g; Carbohydrate: 0g; Fibre: 2.6g; Ash: 2g;
  • Minerals - Calcium: 0mg; Phosphorus: 0mg; Iron: 0mg; Magnesium: 0mg; Sodium: 0mg; Potassium: 0mg; Zinc: 0mg;
  • Vitamins - A: 0mg; Thiamine (B1): 0mg; Riboflavin (B2): 0mg; Niacin: 0mg; B6: 0mg; C: 0mg;
  • Reference: [ 218]
  • Notes:

Medicinal Uses



Plants For A Future can not take any responsibility for any adverse effects from the use of plants. Always seek advice from a professional before using a plant medicinally.

Alterative;  Antipsoriatic;  Antiscrophulatic;  Antispasmodic;  Aperient;  Cancer;  Detergent;  Diuretic;  
Expectorant;  Miscellany;  Sedative;  Skin;  Tonic.

Red clover is safe and effective herb with a long history of medicinal usage. It is commonly used to treat skin conditions, normally in combination with other purifying herbs such as Arctium lappa and Rumex crispus[254]. It is a folk remedy for cancer of the breast, a concentrated decoction being applied to the site of the tumour in order to encourage it to grow outwards and clear the body[254]. Flavonoids in the flowers and leaves are oestrogenic and may be of benefit in the treatment of menopausal complaints[254]. The flowering heads are alterative, antiscrofulous, antispasmodic, aperient, detergent, diuretic, expectorant, sedative and tonic[4, 21, 165, 218, 238]. It has also shown anticancer activity[172, 218], poultices of the herb have been used as local applications to cancerous growths[4]. Internally, the plant is used in the treatment of skin complaints (especially eczema and psoriasis), cancers of the breast, ovaries and lymphatic system, chronic degenerative diseases, gout, whooping cough and dry coughs[238]. The plant is normally harvested for use as it comes into flower[222, 238] and some reports say that only the flowers are used[4]. The toxic indolizidine alkaloid 'slaframine' is often found in diseased clover (even if the clover shows no external symptoms of disease). This alkaloid is being studied for its antidiabetic and anti-AIDS activity[222].

Other Uses

Dye;  Green manure;  Miscellany;  Soil reclamation.

A yellow dye is obtained from the flowers[46, 61]. The plant makes a good green manure, it is useful for over-wintering, especially in a mixture with Lolium perenne[54]. Deep rooting, it produces a good bulk[87]. It is a host to 'clover rot' however, so should not be used too frequently[87]. It can be undersown with cereals though it may be too vigorous[87]. It is also grown with grass mixtures for land reclamation, it has good nitrogen fixing properties[200].

Cultivation details

Succeeds in a moist, well-drained circum-neutral soil in full sun[200]. Prefers a medium-heavy loam[87]. A short-lived perennial[200]. A very hardy plant, tolerating temperatures down to at least -23°c[238]. A very important food plant for the caterpillars of many butterfly and moth species[30]. It is also a good bee plant[54], but not so valuable as the white clover, T. repens[4]. It grows well in an apple orchard, the trees will produce tastier fruit that stores better[201]. It should not be grown with camellias or gooseberries because it harbours a mite that can cause fruit drop in the gooseberries and premature budding in the camellias[201]. Very polymorphic, there are many subspecies and varieties. This species has a symbiotic relationship with certain soil bacteria, these bacteria form nodules on the roots and fix atmospheric nitrogen. Some of this nitrogen is utilized by the growing plant but some can also be used by other plants growing nearby[200]. Buttercups growing nearby depress the growth of the nitrogen bacteria by means of a root exudate[201].

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Propagation

Pre-soak the seed for 12 hours in warm water and then sow in spring in situ. If the seed is in short supply it might be better to sow it in pots in a cold frame. When they are large enough to handle, prick the seedlings out into individual pots and plant them out in late spring. Division in spring[238].

Other Names

If available other names are mentioned here

Found In

Countries where the plant has been found are listed here if the information is available

Weed Potential

Right plant wrong place. We are currently updating this section. Please note that a plant may be invasive in one area but may not in your area so it’s worth checking.

Conservation Status

IUCN Red List of Threatened Plants Status :

Related Plants
Latin NameCommon NameEdibility RatingMedicinal Rating
Trifolium bifidumPiñole Clover, Notchleaf clover20
Trifolium ciliatumFoothill Clover20
Trifolium cyathiferumCup Clover10
Trifolium dichotomumBranched Indian Clover20
Trifolium dubiumSuckling Clover01
Trifolium fimbriatumSpringbank Clover, Cows clover30
Trifolium fucatumSour Clover, Bull clover20
Trifolium fucatum virescens 20
Trifolium gracilentumPin-Point Clover, Palmer's clover20
Trifolium hybridumAlsike Clover21
Trifolium incarnatumCrimson Clover20
Trifolium lupinasterLupine clover10
Trifolium macrocephalumBighead Clover, Largehead clover10
Trifolium microcephalumSmallhead Clover10
Trifolium obtusiflorumClammy Clover20
Trifolium ornithopodioidesBirdsfoot Fenugreek, Bird clover10
Trifolium repensWhite Clover, Dutch Clover, Purple Dutch Clover, Shamrock, White Clover32
Trifolium subterraneumSubterranean Clover10
Trifolium tridentatumTomcat Clover20
Trifolium variegatumWhitetip Clover10

 

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Expert comment

Author

L.

Botanical References

17200

Links / References

For a list of references used on this page please go here

Readers comment

   Mon Jan 8 2007

Biothemen Inforamtion on medicinal uses of Red Clover in German

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