Index of Species Information
SPECIES: Trifolium repens
SPECIES: Trifolium repens
AUTHORSHIP AND CITATION :
Coladonato, Milo. 1993. Trifolium repens. In: Fire Effects Information System, [Online].
U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Rocky Mountain Research Station,
Fire Sciences Laboratory (Producer). Available:
SCS PLANT CODE :
COMMON NAMES :
Dutch white clover
The scientific name for white clover is Trifolium repens L. [14,32].
LIFE FORM :
FEDERAL LEGAL STATUS :
No special status
OTHER STATUS :
DISTRIBUTION AND OCCURRENCE
SPECIES: Trifolium repens
GENERAL DISTRIBUTION :
White clover has a circumboreal distribution. It was introduced in
North America from Europe and has naturalized throughout Canada and the
United States, including Hawaii and Alaska [12,15,41].
White clover occurs in most ecosystems.
AL AK AZ AR CA CO CT DE FL GA
HI ID IL IN IA KS KY LA ME MD
MA MI MN MS MO MT NE NV NH NJ
NM NY NC ND OH OK OR PA RI SC
SD TN TX UT VT VA WA WV WI WY
AB BC MB NT NS ON PQ SK YT
BLM PHYSIOGRAPHIC REGIONS :
1 Northern Pacific Border
2 Cascade Mountains
3 Southern Pacific Border
4 Sierra Mountains
5 Columbia Plateau
6 Upper Basin and Range
7 Lower Basin and Range
8 Northern Rocky Mountains
9 Middle Rocky Mountains
10 Wyoming Basin
11 Southern Rocky Mountains
12 Colorado Plateau
13 Rocky Mountain Piedmont
14 Great Plains
15 Black Hills Uplift
16 Upper Missouri Basin and Broken Lands
KUCHLER PLANT ASSOCIATIONS :
White clover occurs in most Kuchler Plant Associations.
SAF COVER TYPES :
White clover occurs in most SAF Cover Types.
SRM (RANGELAND) COVER TYPES :
White clover occurs in most SRM Cover Types.
HABITAT TYPES AND PLANT COMMUNITIES :
White clover is an introduced species and is therefore not used in
habitat typing. It has, however, naturalized across North America is
often a major understory species in quaking aspen (Populus tremuloides)
communities in the West .
SPECIES: Trifolium repens
IMPORTANCE TO LIVESTOCK AND WILDLIFE :
White clover is an excellent forage plant for livestock and wildlife
[15,20]. The leaves and flowers are grazed by grizzly bear, moose,
mule, white-tailed deer, and blue grouse [2,18,21,26]. It comprises
nearly 6 percent of the annual forage of the white-footed vole .
The seeds are eaten by the northern bobwhite, bufflehead, American coot,
sage grouse, ruffed grouse, sharp-tailed grouse, horned lark, mallard,
gray partridge, greater prairie chicken, willow ptarmigan, American
pintail, California quail, and American robin .
Palatability ratings for white clover are as follows :
UT CO WY MT ND
cattle good good good good good
domestic sheep good good good good good
horses good good fair good good
NUTRITIONAL VALUE :
White clover is highly nutritious to cattle . The leaves are
high-quality feed, and, on a dry-weight basis are high in protein and
COVER VALUE :
The cover value for white clover has been rated as follows :
UT WY MT ND
elk poor poor ---- ----
mule deer poor poor ---- ----
white-tailed deer ---- poor ---- ----
pronghorn poor ---- ---- ----
upland game birds poor ---- ---- ----
waterfowl poor ---- good good
small nongame birds poor ---- ---- ----
small mammals poor ---- ---- ----
VALUE FOR REHABILITATION OF DISTURBED SITES :
White clover is a common component of reclamation mixes in Canada and
the United States . It is commonly used for corridor reclamation on
seismic lines and pipeline rights-of-way in Alberta. It has been
successfully used to revegetate acid coal mine wastes in New Brunswick.
White clover had good performance when seeded on disturbed sites above
5,500 feet (1,650 m) in southeastern British Columbia but gave poor
results when seeded on some alpine sites in Colorado. At other alpine
locations in Colorado, white clover was difficult to establish but
performed well on moist sites at 11,760 feet (3,530 m) elevation .
White clover is used on minespoils in the eastern United States to
provide plant diversity, especially in food patches or openings planted
for wildlife .
Because white clover is a nitrogen-fixing plant, it is often included in
grass mixtures or grass-forb mixtures [5,16].
OTHER USES AND VALUES :
White clover is used extensively by bees to produce honey .
OTHER MANAGEMENT CONSIDERATIONS :
White clover is normally used to provide a source of nitrogen for a sown
companion grass such as smooth brome (Bromus inermis), timothy (Phleum
pratense), or orchardgrass (Dactylis glomerata) while itself yielding
herbage rich in protein . In southeastern United States rangelands,
grass forages grown with white clover average as high as or higher than
monospecific grass forage fertilized at nitrogen rates up to 300
pounds/acre (336 kg/ha). The inclusion of white clover also increases
the calcium concentration of the forage compared to grass alone.
Including a legume such as white clover in a forage mixture probably
offers more opportunity to increase forage nutritional yield than any
other practice generally available [28,38].
Spring mowing may decrease grass vigor and enhance growth of white
clover. Where midsummer mowing increases grass vigor, white clover
declines due to increased competition .
BOTANICAL AND ECOLOGICAL CHARACTERISTICS
SPECIES: Trifolium repens
GENERAL BOTANICAL CHARACTERISTICS :
White clover is a cool-season perennial forb. It produces stolons that
root at the nodes. The leaves are located along the creeping stems.
The small seeds have a hard seed coat [11,32,40].
A tap root develops in young plants and persists from less than 1 year
to 2 years. The majority of the roots are shallow and fibrous, forming
at stolon nodes . Most of the roots of white clover are in the top 4
to 10 inches (10-25 cm) of the soil . Some roots occur as deep as 24
inches (60 cm). Roots of at least one cultivar can penetrate up to 5
feet (1.5 m), depending on soil texture and structure .
Harberd  reported that most white clover clones live about 20 years,
but some may live to 100 or more years of age.
RAUNKIAER LIFE FORM :
REGENERATION PROCESSES :
White clover reproduces by seed and by stoloniferous stems . The
seeds are dispersed by wind, water, birds, and grazing animals
[4,11,38]. Hull  reported that seeds stored for 25 years in
unheated sheds had a germination rate of 73 percent. In at least one
cultivar, the taproot supports vegetative regrowth .
SITE CHARACTERISTICS :
White clover can grow in a wide range of soil and moisture conditions
but grows best in the humid areas of the temperate zone . It is
found along roads, in meadows, and in wooded areas . White clover
grows on well drained or poorly drained soils but optimal growth occurs
on moist, deep soils with 0 to 8 percent slope. It is not tolerant of
drought, excess water, or soils that are saline, highly alkaline, or
SUCCESSIONAL STATUS :
White clover thrives in full sunlight and declines as grass cover
increases. It will grow in partial shade of aspen and oak woodlands
. White clover rapidly invades canopy gaps . In a study of
oldfield-deciduous forest succession in southwestern Ohio, white clover
was present on sites 2, 10, and 50 years after disturbance but not
present on sites that were 90 or more years old . In British
Columbia, white clover is one of the first plants to colonize river
gravel bars .
SEASONAL DEVELOPMENT :
White clover begins new growth in early to midspring, later in higher
elevations and latitudes. It flowers from May to July or throughout the
summer in cool, moist areas but becomes semidormant under hot, dry
conditions. The seeds mature about 3 to 4 weeks after flowering .
SPECIES: Trifolium repens
FIRE ECOLOGY OR ADAPTATIONS :
Information regarding white clover survival following fire is lacking in
the literature. White clover is probably a decreaser following fire
since most of its growing parts are above ground and fire would quickly
defoliate these aboveground parts . White clover probably
regenerates following fire via soil-stored seed. It may also sprout
from the taproot and/or caudex [19,23].
FIRE REGIMES :
Find fire regime information for the plant communities in which this
species may occur by entering the species name in the FEIS home page under
"Find Fire Regimes".
POSTFIRE REGENERATION STRATEGY :
Ground residual colonizer (on-site, initial community)
Surface rhizome/chamaephytic root crown
Caudex, growing points in soil
SPECIES: Trifolium repens
IMMEDIATE FIRE EFFECT ON PLANT :
The stolons of white clover are killed by fire. If fire occurs in a
young population, where taproots are still vigorous, plants may
resprout, although probably with reduced vigor.
DISCUSSION AND QUALIFICATION OF FIRE EFFECT :
Where fire enhances grass cover, the increase competition may reduce
cover of white clover further.
PLANT RESPONSE TO FIRE :
Very little information about how white clover responds to fire was
given in the literature. Following mid-May prescribed burning of a
Wisconsin oldfield being reclaimed to bluestem (Andropogon spp.)
prairie, white clover frequency was 4 percent. Frequency was 1 percent
on control and 6 percent on mowed plots . Johnson  reported
that white clover seeds germinated on both burned and unburned plots in
central Iowa. After white clover was planted on the Sleeping Child Burn
in western Montana, it was present in postfire year 3 but was not
present in successional years .
DISCUSSION AND QUALIFICATION OF PLANT RESPONSE :
FIRE MANAGEMENT CONSIDERATIONS :
SPECIES: Trifolium repens
1. Aldrich, D. T. A.; Anslow, R. C.; Boyce, R.; [and others]. 1972. White
clover (Trifolium repens). Commonwealth Bureau of Pastures and Field
Bulletin. 49: 347-369. 
2. Almack, Jon. 1986. Grizzly bear habitat use, food habits, and movements
in the Selkirk Mountains, northern Idaho. In: Contreras, Glen P.; Evans,
Keith E., compilers. Proceedings--grizzly bear habitat symposium; 1985
April 30 - May 2; Missoula, MT. Gen. Tech. Rep. INT-207. Ogden, UT: U.S.
Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Intermountain Research
Station: 150-157. 
3. Anderson, Roger C. 1972. The use of fire as a management tool on the
Curtis Prairie. Arboretum News. Madison, WI: University of Wisconsin;
21(3): 1-9. 
4. Barrett, Juliana Panos; Silander, John A., Jr. 1992. Seedling
recruitment limitation in white clover (Trifolium repens; Leguminosae).
American Journal of Botany. 79(6): 643-649. 
5. Bormann, Bernard T. 1988. A masterful scheme: Symbiotic nitrogen-fixing
plants of the Pacific Northwest. University of Washington Arboretum
Bulletin. 51(2): 10-14. 
6. Cook, C. Wayne. 1966. Carbohydrate reserves in plants. Utah Research
Series No. 31. [Place of publication unknown]: [Publisher unknown]. 47
p. On file with: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service,
Intermountain Research Station, Fire Sciences Lab, Missoula, MT.
7. Dittberner, Phillip L.; Olson, Michael R. 1983. The plant information
network (PIN) data base: Colorado, Montana, North Dakota, Utah, and
Wyoming. FWS/OBS-83/86. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of the Interior,
Fish and Wildlife Service. 786 p. 
8. Eyre, F. H., ed. 1980. Forest cover types of the United States and
Canada. Washington, DC: Society of American Foresters. 148 p. 
9. Fyles, J. W.; Bell, M. A. 1986. Vegetation colonizing river gravel bars
in the Rocky Mountains of southeastern British Columbia. Northwest
Science. 60(1): 8-14. 
10. Garrison, George A.; Bjugstad, Ardell J.; Duncan, Don A.; [and others].
1977. Vegetation and environmental features of forest and range
ecosystems. Agric. Handb. 475. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of
Agriculture, Forest Service. 68 p. 
11. Gibson, P. B.; Cope, W. A. 1985. White clover. In: Clover science and
technology. Agronomy Monograph No. 25. Madison, WI: Soil Science Society
of America. 25: 471-490. 
12. Gleason, Henry A.; Cronquist, Arthur. 1991. Manual of vascular plants of
northeastern United States and adjacent Canada. 2nd ed. New York: New
York Botanical Garden. 910 p. 
13. Graham, Edward H. 1941. Legumes for erosion control and wildlife. Misc.
Publ. 412. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Agriculture. 153 p.
14. Great Plains Flora Association. 1986. Flora of the Great Plains.
Lawrence, KS: University Press of Kansas. 1392 p. 
15. Hardy BBT Limited. 1989. Manual of plant species suitability for
reclamation in Alberta. 2d ed. Report No. RRTAC 89-4. Edmonton, AB:
Alberta Land Conservation and Reclamation Council. 436 p. 
16. Helvey, J. D.; Fowler, W. B. 1979. Grass seeding and soil erosion in a
steep, logged area in northeastern Oregon. PNW-343. Portland, OR: U.S.
Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Pacific Northwest Forest and
Range Experiment Station. 11 p. 
17. Hull, A. C., Jr. 1973. Germination of range plant seeds after long
periods of uncontrolled storage. Journal of Range Management. 26(3):
18. Irwin, Larry L. 1985. Foods of moose, Alces alces, and white-tailed
deer, Odocoileus virginianus, on a burn in boreal forest. Canadian
Field-Naturalist. 99(2): 240-245. 
19. Johnson, Louise Adele. 1987. The effect of fires at different times of
the year vegetative and sexual reproduction of grasses, and on
establishment of seedlings. Ames, IA: Iowa State University. 91 p.
20. Kauffman, J. Boone; Krueger, W. C.; Vavra, M. 1983. Effects of late
season cattle grazing on riparian plant communities. Journal of Range
Management. 36(6): 685-691. 
21. King, R. Dennis; Bendell, James F. 1982. Foods selected by blue grouse
(Dendragapus obscurus fuliginosus). Canadian Journal of Zoology. 60(12):
22. Kuchler, A. W. 1964. Manual to accompany the map of potential vegetation
of the conterminous United States. Special Publication No. 36. New York:
American Geographical Society. 77 p. 
23. Livingston, R. B.; Allessio, Mary L. 1968. Buried viable seed in
successional field and forest stands, Harvard Forest, Massachusetts.
Bulletin of the Torrey Botanical Club. 95(1): 58-69. 
24. Lyon, L. Jack. 1976. Vegetal development on the Sleeping Child burn in
western Montana, 1961 to 1973. Res. Pap. INT-184. Ogden, UT: U.S.
Department of Agriculture, Forest Service Intermountain Forest and Range
Experiment Station. 24 p. 
25. Matlack, G. R.; Gibson, D. J.; Good, R. E. 1993. Clonal propagation,
local disturbance, and the structure of vegetation: Ericaceous shrubs in
the Pine Barrens of New Jersey. Biological Conservation. 63: 1-8.
26. Olson, Rich. 1992. Mule deer habitat requirements and management in
Wyoming. B-965. Laramie, WY: University of Wyoming, Cooperative
Extension Service. 15 p. 
27. Raunkiaer, C. 1934. The life forms of plants and statistical plant
geography. Oxford: Clarendon Press. 632 p. 
28. Rumbaugh, M. D. 1983. Legumes--their use in wildland plantings. In:
Monsen, Stephen B.; Shaw, Nancy, compilers. Managing Intermountain
rangelands--improvement of range and wildlife habitats: Proceedings of
symposia; 1981 September 15-17; Twin Falls, ID; 1982 June 22-24; Elko,
NV. Gen. Tech. Rep. INT-157. Ogden, UT: U.S. Department of Agriculture,
Forest Service, Intermountain Forest and Range Experiment Station:
29. Schmidt, F. J. W. 1936. Winter food of the sharp-tailed grouse and
pinnated grouse in Wisconsin. Wilson Bulletin. September: 186-203.
30. Severson, Kieth E.; Thilenius, John F. 1976. Classification of quaking
aspen stands in the Black Hills and Bear Lodge Mountains. Res. Pap.
RM-166. Fort Collins, CO: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest
Service, Rocky Mountain Forest and Range Experiment Station. 24 p.
31. Stickney, Peter F. 1989. Seral origin of species originating in northern
Rocky Mountain forests. Unpublished draft on file at: U.S. Department of
Agriculture, Forest Service, Intermountain Research Station, Fire
Sciences Laboratory, Missoula, MT; RWU 4403 files. 7 p. 
32. Stubbendiek, James; Conard, Elverne C. 1989. Common legumes of the Great
Plains: an illustrated guide. Lincoln, NE: University of Nebraska Press.
330 p. 
33. Stubbendieck, James; Nichols, James T.; Butterfield, Charles H. 1989.
Nebraska range and pasture forbs and shrubs (including succulent
plants). Extension Circular 89-118. Lincoln, NE: University of Nebraska,
Nebraska Cooperative Extension. 153 p. 
34. U.S. Department of Agriculture, Soil Conservation Service. 1982.
National list of scientific plant names. Vol. 1. List of plant names.
SCS-TP-159. Washington, DC. 416 p. 
35. Vankat, John L.; Snyder, Gary W. 1991. Floristics of a chronosequence
corresponding to old field - deciduous forest succession in southwestern
Ohio. I. Undisturbed vegetation. Bulletin of the Torrey Botanical Club.
118(4): 365-376. 
36. Voth, Elver H.; Maser, Chris; Johnson, Murray L. 1983. Food habits of
Arborimus albipes, the white-footed vole, in Oregon. Northwest Science.
57(1): 1-7. 
38. Wasser, Clinton H. 1982. Ecology and culture of selected species useful
in revegetating disturbed lands in the West. FWS/OBS-82/56. Washington,
DC: U.S. Department of the Interior, Fish and Wildlife Service. 347 p.
39. Watson, L. E.; Parker, R. W.; Polster, D. F. 1980. Manual of plant
species suitability for reclamation in Alberta. Vol. 2. Forbs, shrubs and
trees. Edmonton, AB: Land Conservation and Reclamation Council. 537 p.
40. Wheeler, W. A.; Hill, D. D. 1957. Grassland seeds. Princeton, NJ: D. Van
Nostrand Company, Inc. 628 p. 
41. Welsh, Stanley L.; Atwood, N. Duane; Goodrich, Sherel; Higgins, Larry
C., eds. 1987. A Utah flora. Great Basin Naturalist Memoir No. 9. Provo,
UT: Brigham Young University. 894 p. 
42. Harberd, D. J. 1963. Observations on natural clones of Trifolium repens
L. New Phytology. 62: 198-204. 
43. Diboll, Neil. 1986. Mowing as an alternative to spring burning for
control of cool season exotic grasses in prairie grass plantings. In:
Clambey, Gary K.; Pemble, Richard H., eds. The prairie: past, present
and future: Proceedings, 9th North American prairie conference; 1984
July 29 - August 1; Moorhead, MN. Fargo, ND: Tri-College University
Center for Environmental Studies: 204-209.