Clover is also called a trefoil and is a member of the legume or pea family. It has at least 300 recognized clover species. While it is mostly confused with shamrock, the shamrock is considered as the suckling clover.
Clovers are mostly used as ground cover for lawns. But of course, the most common knowledge that we have for clovers is its association with good fortune.
Specifically, we refer to the four-leaf clover. Knowing these would ultimately lead us to the question, what then are the types of clover? In this post, we will cover that and more so read on.
What is clover a sign of?
Generally, clover is associated with good fortune or good luck. Specifically, the clover signifying this would be the four-leaf clover. Each leaf is said to represent different things.
The first leaf stands for faith, the second represents hope, the third stands for love and the fourth leaf represents luck. In rare instances, there are even seven-leaf clovers. Although no symbolisms are given to leaves 5, 6, and 7 yet, it is believed that its rarity is a sign of immense luck and abundance.
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What kind of clover is best for lawns?
Clover is considered as one of the best lawn covers. It is more cost-efficient compared to grass as it requires less of everything: water, fertilizer, herbicide, weeding, and more.
The best type of clover for lawn cover would be pure clover or the white clover used for spaces with low to moderate foot traffic and mixed grass-clover lawn which is perfect for areas with high foot traffic such as in football fields.
Clover meaning & symbolism
Clovers are one of the most symbolic plants in the West. Depending on the number of leaves, clovers are known to represent faith, love, hope, and luck. It also stands for fame, abundance, and health. The favor for four-leaf clovers is evident across different cultures and traditions.
In Christian lore, the four-leaf clover is said to be the last piece of Eden which Eve smuggled out of the garden after they were banished. Since it is rare, the four-leaf clover is said to have the blessings of paradise. In the Christian faith, the number four is a masculine symbol as it pertains to the four corners of the cross.
During the middle ages and in Celtic tradition, anyone who bears the four-leaf clover is said to have gained the gift of sight or being able to see fairies and lurking evil. Having the four-leaf clover would mean that you could guard or protect yourself from evil. The power of threes and other numbers also came into light during this time.
For the Irish, to whom clovers are mostly associated since it became the symbol of their patron saint St. Patrick, the three-leaf clover or shamrock stands for the holy trinity. Stories have it that St. Patrick used the shamrock in evangelizing about the holy trinity in Ireland.
This type of clovers is used as an organic remedy for damaged pastureland or hayland. Annual clovers have more nitrogen-fixing quality and have more feed-quality compared to perennial cloves.
And since annual clovers die out annually, the use of herbicide and tilling is reduced. More so, because annual clovers have sturdier tap roots, they create more water and air passageways and retain moisture better even without mulching. Famous annual clovers are: arrowleaf, ball, berseem, crimson, rose and subterranean.
Perennial clovers are more popular than annual clovers because of its overall effect on the quality of pasture it produces.
First off, perennials reduce the need for nitrogen and are potent in counteracting certain soil chemicals.
They are also known in increasing crude protein in pasture making it a good choice for feeds for livestock. Famous perennial clovers are white and red clover.
Types of clover leaves
There are three types of clover leaves: the three-leaf clover, four-leaf clover, and the five-leaf clover.
The three-leaf clover is also known as shamrocks and is associated with St. Patrick.
The four-leaf clover is very rare with a probability of finding one is at a ratio of 1:100,000.
The four-leaf clover is caused by a mutation from the three-leaf mostly caused by environmental or genetic reasons.
While the five-leaf clover is not uncommon, it is mostly found in the wild. Clovers used as lawn cover are usually three-leaf.
51 Types of clovers
1. Red clover (Trifolium pratense)
This forage clover loves the cool and moist spring providing 100lbs of nitrogen per acre after harvest. It enjoys moisture-retaining soils, alkaline soils with high levels of calcium. It is the easiest clover to seed and establishes, usually mixed with other forage crops.
2. White clover (Trifolium repens)
It is a famous pasture perennial known for its ability to tolerate a wide range of soil types. It only needs a neutral pH and less salty soil.
The best germination time for white clovers is during spring or when the temperature brings in a lot of moisture. It comes in ladino, Louisiana white, Dutch clover, or English wild species.
3. Crimson clover (Trifolium incarnatum)
It is a popular choice as forage cover or as natural manure for pollinators. It is a winter annual with tall, upright stems and larger seeds compared to other clovers. It has high shade tolerance or for early spring seeding.
4. Alsike clover (Trifolium hybridum)
Like the alfalfa, alsike clover is a famous pasture plant. It naturally sprouts in roadsides or in moist fields. It is known for its high nutritional value for livestock. It has pink and white flower heads which turn brown after pollination. It grows late and is often confused with red clover.
5. Suckling clover (Lesser trefoil, Trifolium dubium)
It is a winter annual clover with a unique ascending habit. It is self-seeding and is prized in pasturelands because it produces high quality feeds albeit its relatively small size. It grows in mats and are real survivors being able to fix and regulate its nitrogen levels.
6. Egyptian clover (Trifolium alexandrinum)
Also called the berseem clover is considered as the most important winter fodder crop in Asia. It is grown in irrigated fields like that of ancient Egypt and India.
It is spring and winter annual cultivated around the world as winter forage or for green manure crops. It is usually grown before summer vegetables and cotton. It is both cold and drought hardy and is cut two to three times a year for its basal stems.
7. Subterranean clover (Trifolium subterraneum)
Aside from being low-growing, this clover type is also self-seeding making it a functional lawn and forage cover especially in areas where irrigation is not available. Aside from this, it is also drought-resistant.
8. Hare’s-foot clover (Trifolium arvense)
It gets its name from its hairs covering its pink flowers blooming from June to September. It is grown in dry grasslands, coastal regions, or in sandy soils.
It is a three-leaf clover but its leaves are relatively smaller than others. Its downy hairs resembling a hare’s paw is its most distinguishing feature. It is now widely cultivated as a livestock fodder crop.
9. Ruddy clover/Red feather clover (Trifolium rubens)
It is a perennial clover with a clump-growing habit. It is also unique for its large, ruby-red flowers which bloom all summer. It is used as lawn cover and is highly attractive to bees. It enjoys moist and well-draining soil. It requires cutting the blooms after flowering for lusher blooms. It thrives in full sun to partial shade.
10. Low hop clover (Trifolium campestre, hop trefoil)
This one has a bushy appeal with reddish-green, sprawling stems. It has ovate, hairless, tri foliage with white veins. It blooms yellow flowers with slightly green centers during the summer.
It thrives in high traffic and is naturally blooming in abandoned fields, pastures, and roadsides. It loves full to partial sun and moist, loamy soils.
11. Large hop clover/golden clover (Trifolium aureum, large trefoil)
It is an annual or biennial clover with short leaflet stems. It grows naturally in roadsides, forest entrances, and in pasture fields. It blooms yellow flowers from July to August. Aside from being a fodder crop, it is also considered as a honey plant because it attracts bees primarily.
12. Siberian Clover (Trifolium lupinaster)
It is a perennial clover growing at 1.8ft. It is self-seeding and blooms attractive deep pink flowers from July to October. It will grow well in light sand, loamy and heavy clay.
The good thing about it is that it could also survive in nutritionally deficient soils. It can only grow in full to partial sun. It is an important plant because its nodules on its roots fix the nitrogen level of the soil.
13. Zigzag Clover (Trifolium medium)
It is native to Finland and is a rhizomatous perennial. It has an erect, less hairy stem and stands at 1.5ft. It has long, pin-like deep pink petals with a whitish base.
It blooms from June to August and its habitat are river banks, waste grounds, forest margins, and roadsides. It is an important fodder crop and a honey plant for bees and some species of butterflies.
14. Running buffalo clover (Trifolium stoloniferum)
It is called running because this perennial clover has stolons or runners which creep away from the stem base and root somewhere else.
It has delicate, white flowers and its habitat would be disturbed meadows or disturbed locations where there is much shade during the day.
It has been listed as endangered along with the lessened number of herded bison as it was the favorite fodder crop for this specific livestock.
15. Cows clover/coast clover (Trifolium wormskioldii)
It is a perennial legume known for its mat-like formation. Its leaflets are bristled or toothed. It blooms beautiful, pink-white, globular flowers like small daisies. Its habitats include oak woodlands, subalpine forests, and moist grasslands.
Aside from being a fodder crop, it is used traditionally by native American groups as herb typically steamed or boiled with fish. Sometimes it is also eaten as raw. It is also the niche of the Western cloudywing butterfly.
16. Mountain clover (Trifolium montanum)
It is a perennial herb from the pea family growing to a height of 2ft on an erect, woolly stem. It produces small yellowish-white flowers from June-July. Its leaflets have a lancing habit with toothed edges and hairy undersides. Its habitats are rocky outcrops, riverbanks, and dry meadows. It is used as lawn cover as it spreads with more traffic.
17. Chilean clover/double-head clover (Trifolium macraei)
It gets its name from being endemic along the coastlines of Southern America. It thrives in disturbed locations and sandy dunes. It is considered as an annual herb with an erect form.
It has ovate leaflets and two rounder flower heads, hence, the other name. Its pinkish-white flowers are coated with hairy bristles. It can thrive in low humidity areas and is used as ground cover.
18. Foothill clover (Trifolium ciliolatum)
This one is native to western North America thriving in meadows, moist environments including disturbed habitats. It is an annual herb with an erect form and hairless stems.
Its leaflets are ovate and toothed and hairy pinkish-purple flowers blooming in a drooping manner.
Then and now, the foothill clover is used as an ingredient in many native American cuisines. It is also used as a fodder crop in farms and pasturelands.
19. Purple-globe clover (Trifolium alpestre)
Also called an owl head clover, this one is a mat-forming clover in alpine grasslands. It is an herbaceous perennial with an upright, woody stem. It blooms purple flowers from May to August. It is used as ground cover for vast fields as it holds nitrogen good for vegetation.
20. Alpine clover (Trifolium alpinum)
It is named as such because it is native to the Alps. This perennial clover has a distinguishable large taproot, short stems, and leaflets of up to 5cm long. It is also unique for its ping-red-purple, fragrant flowers.
It normally grows in acidic soils in subalpine and alpine climates. It is regarded as an important forage plant for livestock and helps in stabilizing soil compactness in high erosion sites.
21. Narrowleaf crimson clover (Trifolium angustifolium)
It is an annual herb in an erect form native to Africa and Asia. It has narrow, lancing leaflets with bristles at the tip. It is unique for its cylindrical, spiking flowers with pale pink and green colors.
It will turn brown and the spikes will become hard bristles when the plant dries. It highly resembles dandelions typically growing in pasturelands.
22. Rose clover (Trifolium hirtum)
It is an annual, self-seeding clover growing during fall, winter, and spring. While it is adaptive to different types of soil, it will best thrive in light-textured ones. It is also sensitive to cutting or heavy grazing and as such are commonly mixed with subterranean clovers.
23. Knotted clover (Trifolium striatum)
It is also called as the soft clover similar to strawberry and reversed clover. It is a short clover with hairy stems leaflets. It blooms pink flowers from May to July. The overall appearance of the plant is sometimes upright and sometimes down or inflated. It thrives in moist, well-drained soils.
24. Clustered clover (Trifolium glomeratum)
It is called as such because its flowerheads sometimes have a habit of clustering together. It grows in either upright or recumbent manner at a maximum height of 2ft.
It produces tiny pinkish-white flowers in 3-10 globular clusters. Unlike all clovers, it has green, embroidered-like sepals within its flowerheads.
25. Showy Indian clover/two-fork clover (Trifolium amoenum)
It is presently categorized as an endangered annual herb found in the grasslands of the bay area in San Francisco. It is considered a wildflower, growing in an erect manner and thriving on heavy clay soils. It has a spherical, purplish flower with white tips. It is used as ground cover for landscaping and in pasturelands.
26. Small white clover (Trifolium nigrescens)
The micro-clover like the wild white clover has a potent ability to fix atmospheric nitrogen allowing their survival and nearby vegetation. It has a creeping growth habit with small to medium-sized leaflets. They are usually used for heavy grazing locations specifically as fodder crops to sheep and cattle.
27. Longstalk clover (Trifolium longipes)
It is a self-seeding perennial herb unique for its broad leaves and purple-white-pink, daisy-like flowers on long stalks. It has 2-5 hairless, ovate leaflets. It is sometimes used for green composting and a known honey plant. It is native to North America.
28. Bull clover/sour clover (Trifolium fucatum)
Aside from being a showy bloomer, this clover is also edible. It is an annual clover growing upright at 1ft tall and in a mounding habit.
It is now more cultivated as a container plant because of its attractive flowers in white-pink-purple hues and black tips from April to June. It is referenced in many ethnographies as an edible plant that can be eaten raw.
29. Pinpoint clover/slender clover (Trifolium gracilentum)
It is an annual clover unique for its attractive blooms of pink petals with dark purple markings from spring to summer.
It is native to the coastal regions and deserts of the Pacific Northwest and California. It thrives in sandy, gravel, and serpentine soils.
It has an upright form with a height of 2ft. It survives under full sun and is drought-tolerant. It is an important butterfly and honey plant.
30. Cup clover/bowl clover (Trifolium cyathiferum)
It is a low growing annual plant found in western North America. It is said that wherever the tomcat clover appears, there is an accompanying cup clover in between.
It gets its name from its clustered yellow flowers with pink tips forming a cup or bowl shape. Like the red clover, it is often dried as tea and used for medicinal use but its typical use is as a forage plant.
31. Cowbag clover/poverty clover (Trifolium depauperatum)
Also called as the balloon sack clover, this one is commonly found in mixed rainforests and coastal prairies.
It is a small annual clover with an upright form. Its leaflets are either lobed, smooth, toothed, or with blunt tips. Its flowers are unique with its burgundy color that becomes like clustered balloons as its fruits develop.
32. Rancheria clover (Trifolium albopurpureum)
This one is a trendy container plant thanks to its large white and purple flowers blooming the entire spring.
It is an annual, self-seeding clover native to California. It could also be grown as a forage plant with its ability to fix nitrogen levels. It is also a known photoautotroph, hence, good for biogas production.
33. Whitetip clover (Trifolium variegatum)
It can be cultivated as either annual or perennial. It has an upright form with unique fleshy and hairless leaflets.
Its leaves are irregular shaped and sometimes come with serrated edges. It comes with an elegant looking flower of red and burgundy colors with white edges and bristled tips.
34. Small head clover (Trifolium microcephalum)
It is a small, annual wildflower with an upright form standing at 10-70cm. Its leaflets are ovate, toothed, and hairy undersides. It blooms pink-green, hairy flowers in either globe or triangle shape. Its natural habitats are sandy riverbanks, moist hillsides, and meadows.
35. Western clover (Trifolium occidentale)
It is often confused with the white clover because they have similar flowers and thrive in sandy dunes and rock outcrops. But unlike white clovers, western clovers are early bloomers with a more compact form. Its leaflets have a blue-green color and opaque in nature.
36. Large head clover (Trifolium macrocephalum)
It is a self-seeding, perennial herb whose habitats include woodlands and pine forests. It has hairy leaflets and an upright form.
It has 5-9 leaflets and an egg-shaped, delicate-looking white flower with pink markings. The flowers have bristles and are woolly all over. They are now cultivated as container plants.
37. Notchleaf clover/pinole clover (Trifolium bifidum)
It is an annual herb native in all of California. It grows in open grasslands in an erect yet spreading form. It is slightly hairy in texture made of ovate leaflets with notches on the tips, hence, the name. It has attractive yellow-pink-purple flowers covered in bristles, drooping as they mature.
38. Clammy clover (Trifolium obtusiflorum)
This one typically grows in disturbed areas including marshes and streambanks. It is an annual, self-seeding herb growing in an upright form. It is hairy and sticky in texture. Its leaflets are ovate but pointed and toothed all over. It blooms pink-purple, bristled flowers with white tips.
39. Forest clover/Brewer’s clover (Trifolium breweri)
It is native to coastal pine forests and in mixed evergreen forests. It is used as lawn cover as it grows in dense, mat-like form. They are particularly used in cosmopolitan settings. It has hairy leaflets, umbel-like flowers in hues of yellow to red-pink.
40. Few-flowered clover (Trifolium oliganthum)
It is an annual, self-seeding clover growing in an upright form. It has irregular shaped, toothed leaflets. It grows two-headed flowers in green with deep purple markings. It also has deep purple to burgundy, long and slender stalks with bracts at the base. It is used in grass mixtures as lawn cover.
41. Monterey clover (Trifolium trichocalyx)
It is now listed as an endangered plant species in California. It is an annual, self-seeding, widely branching clover. It is used as ground cover for agricultural lands as well as commercial and residential lands. It grows in an upright manner with compound, toothed leaves with notched tips.
42. Bolander’s clover/parasol clover (Trifolium bolanderi)
This perennial is native to California and is categorized as rare to fairly endangered plant species. It grows in mounds, with hairless leaflets and upright stems. Its leaves are ovate and toothed, forming at the base of the woody stems. Its flowers come in black with pink markings and grow in a drooping manner.
43. Thimble clover (Trifolium microdon)
It is an annual, self-seeding clover growing in an erect form with hairs all over. It has ovate and toothed leaflets with notched tips. It grows small, white, cup-shaped flowers with bracts enclosing the flower heads.
44. Bearded clover (Trifolium barbigerum)
It is native to the central coast of California both found in high-traffic areas and pasturelands. It is an annual, hairless clover. It has ovate leaflets in various shapes and comes with notches at the tips. Its purple and white flowers are bristled all over.
45. Five leaf clover/Anderson’s clover (Trifolium andersonii)
It is native to the US Great Basin Area with notable species growing in alpine forests. It is a perennial, stem-less herb, growing in mounds like cushions. It has 3-7, woolly, long and silvery leaves and bicolored, hairy/bristled pink-purple flowers.
46. Santa Cruz clover (Trifolium buckwestiorum)
It is a rare clover species found in California. It cannot be as endemic as other clover species because it is easily disturbed and is sensitive to high traffic. It is used, however, as a forage crop in fields. It has a hairless, reddish stem, upright form, and bowl-like flowers.
47. Woollyhead clover/hairy head clover (Trifolium eriocephalum)
It is a perennial, self-seeding, hairy and upright clover. It has three leaflets and narrow basal leaves. It also sports roundish, pink or yellow flowers. Its habitat includes moist meadows and subalpine forests.
48. Hollyleaf clover (Trifolium gymnocarpon)
This one is rhizomatic clover sporting a creeping, spreading manner and forming in clumps/mounds. It has ovate, toothed leaves, and yellow, cup-shaped flowers. It is beneficial for many farmlands as it kills invasive knapweeds.
49. Canyon clover/Howell’s clover (Trifolium howellii)
This one is a perennial herb native to California and Oregon. Its habitats include streambanks and swamps. It has hairless, ovate leaflets and elongated, drooping flowers.
50. Mountain carpet clover (Trifolium monanthum)
It is a low-growing, annual clover niching in dense mats on pine forests. It has woolly stems and stalks. It has leaflets and basal leaves. Its white, lily-like flowers are included in the leaves.
51. Beckwith’s clover (Trifolium beckwithii)
Its native habitats include yellow pine and red fir forests. It grows in an upright form and is unique for its solitary leaves in its long stalk while basal leaves clump at the base. It has drooping flowers in colors of pink and purple.
In conclusion, clovers are essentially useful. By mostly associating it with good luck and fortune, we overlook and sometimes get shocked that clovers are cultivated for covering lawns and in developing better pasturelands.
And if by chance we knew, we might not know that there are over 300 species of clovers with specific growth habits and functions.
Now that we know all the essential things about the types of clover, it is but right to put this plant in another light.