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Overview

Comprehensive Description

Description

This introduced perennial plant is ½–2' tall, branching occasionally. The stems are round and hairless, or nearly so. Alternate compound leaves occur along these stems. They are trifoliate, and have long petioles. Where the petiole joins the stem, there are a pair of membranous stipules that are broadly lanceolate. The individual leaflets are about ½" long, and either oblong or obovate in shape. They are neither sharply pointed nor indented at their tips, while their margins are finely serrate. Unlike some Trifolium spp., there are no chevrons (white markings) on the upper surface of these leaflets. The foliage is hairless.  From the stipules of the upper stems, there are flowering stalks that terminate in well-rounded flowerheads about ½–¾" across. Each flower is about ¼" long and very slender, consisting of a tubular corolla and 5 lobe-like petals. Like other pea-like flowers, there is a standard, two side petals, and a keel, but they are tubular and narrow. The calyx of each flower is white with long slender teeth that are green. It is much shorter than the corolla. The flowers are usually some shade of whitish pink. The blooming period occurs intermittently during the summer for 1-3 months. The root system consists of a taproot and secondary roots that form nodes with nitrogen-fixing bacteria.
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© John Hilty

Source: Illinois Wildflowers

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Comments

While this is a weedy species, its value to wildlife is rather high. Alsike Clover resembles Trifolium repens (White Clover), except its leaves develop from the stems rather than from runners in the ground, and there are no chevrons (white-markings) on its leaflets. Alsike Clover is usually somewhat taller than White Clover, and its flowerheads are usually more pinkish in appearance. It differs from Trifolium pratense (Red Clover) in being a smaller, less hairy plant, with smaller flowerheads that are less reliably pink. Red Clover has chevrons on its leaflets, while Alsike Clover doesn't.
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© John Hilty

Source: Illinois Wildflowers

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Description

Alsike clover has smooth stems and leaves, reaching a height of 2-4 feet. This introduced plant tends to recline or lodge unless companion plants hold the stem upright. The flowers are pink to white, and are borne along the length of the stem. The flower heads are much smaller than red clover, and the stems do not terminate in a flower as they do in red clover.

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Alternative names

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Distribution

Range and Habitat in Illinois

Alsike Clover is a common plant that occurs in every county of Illinois (see Distribution Map). However, it appears to be less common than either Trifolium pratense (Red Clover) and Trifolium repens (White Clover). Alsike Clover was originally introduced from Europe, probably for agricultural purposes. Typical habitats includes moist meadows near woodlands, pastures, abandoned fields, and roadsides. It does not tolerate regular lawn-mowing as well as White Clover.
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© John Hilty

Source: Illinois Wildflowers

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Localities documented in Tropicos sources

Trifolium hybridum L.:
Canada (North America)
Chile (South America)
Colombia (South America)
Greenland (North America)
Peru (South America)
United States (North America)
China (Asia)

Note: This information is based on publications available through Tropicos and may not represent the entire distribution. Tropicos does not categorize distributions as native or non-native.
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© Missouri Botanical Garden, 4344 Shaw Boulevard, St. Louis, MO 63110 USA

Source: Missouri Botanical Garden

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National Distribution

Canada

Origin: Exotic

Regularity: Regularly occurring

Currently: Unknown/Undetermined

Confidence: Confident

United States

Origin: Exotic

Regularity: Regularly occurring

Currently: Unknown/Undetermined

Confidence: Confident

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© NatureServe

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Distribution and adaptation

Alsike is best adapted to the cool climate of the Northeast. It will tolerate wetter soils better than other clovers, and also acid conditions. It prefers silty clay loams, and does not tolerate droughty sites.

Alsike clover is distributed throughout the United States. For a current distribution map, please consult the Plant Profile page for this species on the PLANTS Website.

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USDA NRCS Plant Materials Program

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Physical Description

Morphology

Physical Description

Perennial, Herbs, Taproot present, Nodules present, Stems erect or ascending, Stems less than 1 m tall, Stems solid, Stems hollow, or spongy, Stems or young twigs glabrous or sparsely glabrate, Leaves alternate, Leaves petiolate, Stipules conspicuous, Stipules membranous or chartaceous, Stipules persistent, Stipules clasping stem at the base, Stipules adnate to petiole, Leaves compound, Leaves palmately 2-3 foliate, Leaf or leaflet margins entire, Leaflets dentate or denticulate, Leaflets 3, Leaves glabrous or nearly so, Inflorescences racemes, Inflorescence umbel-like or subumbellate, Inflorescences globose heads, capitate or subcapitate, Inflorescence axillary, Bracteoles present, Flowers zygomorphic, Calyx 5-lobed, Calyx glabrous, Petals separate, Corolla papilionaceous, Petals clawed, Petals white, Petals pinkish to rose, Banner petal narrow or oblanceolate, Wing petals narrow, oblanceolate to oblong, Wing petals auriculate, Wing tips obtuse or rounded, Keel tips obtuse or rounded, not beaked, Stamens 9-10, Stamens diadelphous, 9 united, 1 free, Filaments glabrous, Style terete, Fruit a legume, Fruit unilocular, Fruit indehiscent, Fruit oblong or ellipsoidal, Fruit orbicular to subglobose, Fruit or valves persistent on stem, Fruit glabrous or glabrate, Fruit 2-seeded, Fruit 3-10 seeded, Seeds cordiform, mit-shaped, notched at one end, Seed surface smooth, Seeds olive, brown, or black.
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Dr. David Bogler

Source: USDA NRCS PLANTS Database

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Ecology

Habitat

Range and Habitat in Illinois

Alsike Clover is a common plant that occurs in every county of Illinois (see Distribution Map). However, it appears to be less common than either Trifolium pratense (Red Clover) and Trifolium repens (White Clover). Alsike Clover was originally introduced from Europe, probably for agricultural purposes. Typical habitats includes moist meadows near woodlands, pastures, abandoned fields, and roadsides. It does not tolerate regular lawn-mowing as well as White Clover.
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© John Hilty

Source: Illinois Wildflowers

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Dispersal

Establishment

Alsike clover is always seeded with grass, or can be overseeded into grass in the spring. For conventional plantings, spring and fall seedings will work. Alsike seed should always be inoculated due to the infrequent use of the species. Plant alsike at 2-4 pounds per acre, at a depth of 1/4 to 1/2 inch. Pre-plant fertilize according to soil test.

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Associations

Flower-Visiting Insects of Alsike Clover in Illinois

Trifolium hybridum (Alsike Clover) introduced
(Bees suck nectar or collect pollen, while other insects suck nectar; thick-headed flies, butterflies, & skippers are non-pollinating according to Robertson; one observation is from Swengel & Swengel as indicated below, otherwise observations are from Robertson)

Bees (long-tongued)
Apidae (Apinae): Apis mellifera sn cp fq; Anthophoridae (Epeolini): Epeolus interruptus sn; Anthophoridae (Nomadini): Nomada affabilis sn; Megachilidae (Osmiini): Hoplitis pilosifrons sn cp fq, Osmia conjuncta sn cp, Osmia cordata sn cp

Bees (short-tongued)
Halictidae (Halictinae): Augochlorella aurata sn cp, Halictus confusus sn cp, Halictus ligatus sn, Lasioglossum versatus sn cp; Andrenidae (Panurginae): Calliopsis andreniformis sn

Wasps
Sphecidae (Sphecinae): Prionyx atrata sn

Flies
Conopidae: Zodion fulvifrons sn np

Butterflies
Nymphalidae: Chlosyne nycteis sn np; Lycaenidae: Lycaeides melissa samuelis sn fq (Sw), Lycaena hyllus sn np

Skippers
Hesperiidae: Ancyloxypha numitor sn np

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Faunal Associations

Long-tongued bees visit the flowers for pollen or nectar, including honeybees. Many kinds of insects feed on the foliage, including the caterpillars of the butterflies Colias philodice (Clouded Sulfur) and Colias eurytheme (Orange Sulfur). The caterpillars of many moths feed on the foliage and other parts of Trifolium spp. (see Moth Table). Because the foliage contains oxalic acid, it is mildly toxic to some mammalian herbivores if it is eaten in sufficiently large amounts. Nonetheless, livestock, rabbits, and groundhogs readily consume it, like other clovers. The foliage, flowerheads, and seedpods are eaten by upland gamebirds, including the Greater Prairie Chicken, Wild Turkey, and Bobwhite. The Horned Lark and Thirteen-Lined Ground Squirrel also eat the seedpods.
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© John Hilty

Source: Illinois Wildflowers

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Foodplant / internal feeder
larva of Apion assimile feeds within inflorescence of Trifolium hybridum

Foodplant / internal feeder
larva of Apion fulvipes feeds within inflorescence of Trifolium hybridum

Foodplant / internal feeder
larva of Apion seniculus feeds within stem of Trifolium hybridum
Other: major host/prey

In Great Britain and/or Ireland:
Foodplant / parasite
conidial anamorph of Erysiphe trifolii parasitises live Trifolium hybridum

Foodplant / parasite
sporangium of Peronospora trifoliorum parasitises live Trifolium hybridum
Other: major host/prey

Foodplant / spot causer
mostly hypophyllous colony of Ramularia anamorph of Ramularia sphaeroidea causes spots on leaf of Trifolium hybridum

Foodplant / parasite
uredium of Uromyces trifolii-repentis parasitises live stem of Trifolium hybridum

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Molecular Biology and Genetics

Molecular Biology

Barcode data: Trifolium hybridum

The following is a representative barcode sequence, the centroid of all available sequences for this species.


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© Barcode of Life Data Systems

Source: Barcode of Life Data Systems (BOLD)

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Statistics of barcoding coverage: Trifolium hybridum

Barcode of Life Data Systems (BOLDS) Stats
Public Records: 3
Specimens with Barcodes: 10
Species With Barcodes: 1
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© Barcode of Life Data Systems

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Conservation

Conservation Status

National NatureServe Conservation Status

Canada

Rounded National Status Rank: NNA - Not Applicable

United States

Rounded National Status Rank: NNA - Not Applicable

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NatureServe Conservation Status

Rounded Global Status Rank: GNR - Not Yet Ranked

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Status

Please consult the PLANTS Web site and your State Department of Natural Resources for this plant’s current status (e.g. threatened or endangered species, state noxious status, and wetland indicator values).

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Threats

Pests and potential problems

Unknown.

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Management

Cultivars, improved and selected materials (and area of origin)

Common seed is available from commercial seed sources.

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Pasture management varies depending upon the forages in use, but should be based upon the grasses involved since they are the “meat and potatoes” of the mix. High rates of nitrogen fertilizer will damage the alsike component. In hayfields, cutting below 2 inches will damage the stand.

Animal management note: on pasture high in alsike clover content, take steps to introduce animals gradually to the forage or risk of bloat can be high. Horses have done poorly on pastures that have significant alsike components.

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Relevance to Humans and Ecosystems

Benefits

Cultivation

The preference is full or partial sun, and moist to mesic soil that is slightly acidic. This plant flourishes in a loam or clay-loam soil.
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© John Hilty

Source: Illinois Wildflowers

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Uses

Alsike clover is used for hay, pasture, and soil improvement, and is preferred where wetter or acid soils are encountered. It is generally out produced by other clover species for particular uses. Note: alsike clover can be toxic to horses under some conditions.

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Wikipedia

Trifolium hybridum

Trifolium hybridum, alsike clover, is a plant species of the genus Trifolium in the pea family Fabaceae. The stalked, pale pink or whitish flower head grows from the leaf axils, and the trifoliate leaves are unmarked. The plant is 1–2 feet (30–60 cm) tall, and is found in fields and on roadsides – it is also grown as fodder (hay or silage). The plant blooms from spring to autumn (April to October in the northern hemisphere).[2] Originating in mainland Europe, it has become established as an introduced plant in the British Isles[1] and throughout the temperate regions of the world.[3]

History[edit]

Despite its scientific name, alsike clover is not of hybrid origin. The plant gets its common name from the town of Alsike in Sweden from which Linnaeus first described it. He thought it was a cross between white clover (T. repens) and red clover (T. pratense), but in this he was mistaken and it is a separate species.[4][5]

Description[edit]

Alsike clover is a perennial plant with a semi-erect, sparsely branched, grooved stem, hairy in its upper refgions. The leaves are alternate and stalked with small stipules. The leaves have three blunt-tipped ovate, unspotted leaflets with finely toothed margins. The inflorescence has a long stalk and is densely globose. The individual florets have a five-lobed calyx and an irregular corolla consisting of five pink petals, one upstanding "standard", two lateral "wings" and the lower two fused to form a "keel". There are ten stamens and a single carpal.[6]

Distribution and habitat[edit]

Alsike clover is native to much of southern Europe and southwestern Asia, especially in mountainous regions. It is widely cultivated and used as a forage crop and for this purpose the subspecies T. h. hybridum is used and this has become naturalised further north in Europe and in other parts of the world. Its natural habitat is fields, meadows, roadsides, banks and waste ground. When added to seed mixtures, it seldom persists once the sward has closed up.[7]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b C A Stace, Interactive Flora of the British Isles, a Digital Encyclopaedia: Trifolium hybridum. ISBN 90-75000-69-3. (Online version)
  2. ^ Lee Peterson, Roger Tory Peterson, Lee Allen Peterson, A Field Guide to Edible Wild Plants of Eastern and Central North America, Boston, Houghton Mifflin, 1978, c1977. 330 p. (The Peterson field guide series, no. 23): pp 56, 124. Google Books
  3. ^ A R Clapham, T G Tutin, E F Warburg, Flora of the British Isles, Cambridge, 1962, p 341
  4. ^ Publications & Information: Alsike Clover. Montana State University.
  5. ^ Clark, G. H. (1913). Fodder and Pasture Plants. Canada Dept. of Agriculture.
  6. ^ "Alsike Clover". NatureGate. Retrieved 2013-12-24. 
  7. ^ "Trifolium hybridum (Alsike Clover)". Online Atlas of the British and Irish Flora. Retrieved 2013-12-24. 
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