How to Identify a Red Clover

Overview

Red clover, or Trifolium pratense, grows throughout the United States and is a member of the legume family. Although farmers plant it to replenish soil and for their animals to graze on, it also grows naturally from lawns, fields, roadsides and disturbed grounds. The pinkish-red flowers, which are used medicinally, bloom between late spring and autumn and help to distinguish it from other clovers. Observations and comparisons between likely plants and field guides will help you with red clover identification.

Step 1

Carry a red clover profile, such as those found in field guides, to the plant's location for a side-by-side comparison of the plant and red clover description. Your view of the plant and the photos provide you with a tentative identification.

Step 2

Measure the height of the plant stem, and compare it to the description. The Virginia Tech Weed Identification Guide notes the range of red clover stem length is 8 to 20 inches, and "Medicinal Plants of North America" provides a range of 12 to 18 inches.

Step 3

Observe the shape and colors of its leaves. Red clover has trifoliate leaves, which contain three elliptic-shaped leaflets. Each leaflet is green with a white or lighter green chevron, or v-shaped marking.

Step 4

Touch and measure the leaves for further evidence of its identity. Red clover leaves are lightly hairy on both sides or on the underside, and they measure approximately 0.50 to 1.25 inches in length.

Step 5

Examine the flowers. Small, tube-like, pinkish-red flowers comprise the oval- or circular-shaped head.

Tips and Warnings

  • Do not consume red clover without 100 percent certainty of its identification, and beware of pesticides that may have been applied to them. Do not consume red clover tea without guidance from a holistic health-care provider.

Things You'll Need

  • Field guide
  • Ruler

References

  • "Medicinal Plants of North America"; Jim Meuninck; 2008
  • Virginia Tech Weed Identification Guide: Red Clover

Who Can Help

  • University of Maryland Medical Center: Red Clover
Keywords: trifolium pratense, red clover identification, red clover description

About this Author

Krissi Maarx is a freelance writer who has written web content since 2006. She is an Associate of Applied Science in Human Services, with studies focusing on holistic healing, mental health care and medicinal botany. As a pet groomer, too, Maarx writes many dog-related articles for print and the web.