Trifolium repens - L.
White Clover
Other Common Names: white clover
Taxonomic Status: Accepted
Related ITIS Name(s): Trifolium repens L. (TSN 26206)
Unique Identifier: ELEMENT_GLOBAL.2.147168
Element Code: PDFAB40220
Informal Taxonomy: Plants, Vascular - Flowering Plants - Pea Family
 
Kingdom Phylum Class Order Family Genus
Plantae Anthophyta Dicotyledoneae Fabales Fabaceae Trifolium
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Concept Reference
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Concept Reference: Kartesz, J.T. 1994. A synonymized checklist of the vascular flora of the United States, Canada, and Greenland. 2nd edition. 2 vols. Timber Press, Portland, OR.
Concept Reference Code: B94KAR01HQUS
Name Used in Concept Reference: Trifolium repens
Conservation Status
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NatureServe Status

Global Status: GNR
Global Status Last Changed: 22Mar1994
Rounded Global Status: GNR - Not Yet Ranked
Nation: United States
National Status: NNA
Nation: Canada
National Status: NNA (07Sep2016)

U.S. & Canada State/Province Status
United States Alabama (SNA), Alaska (SNA), Arizona (SNA), Arkansas (SNA), California (SNA), Colorado (SNA), Connecticut (SNA), Delaware (SNA), District of Columbia (SNA), Florida (SNA), Georgia (SNA), Hawaii (SNA), Idaho (SNA), Illinois (SNA), Indiana (SNA), Iowa (SNA), Kansas (SNA), Kentucky (SNA), Louisiana (SNA), Maine (SNA), Maryland (SNA), Massachusetts (SNR), Michigan (SNA), Minnesota (SNA), Mississippi (SNA), Missouri (SNA), Montana (SNA), Nebraska (SNA), Nevada (SNA), New Hampshire (SNA), New Jersey (SNA), New Mexico (SNA), New York (SNA), North Carolina (SNA), North Dakota (SNA), Ohio (SNA), Oklahoma (SNA), Oregon (SNA), Pennsylvania (SNA), Rhode Island (SNA), South Carolina (SNA), South Dakota (SNA), Tennessee (SNA), Texas (SNA), Utah (SNA), Vermont (SNA), Virginia (SNA), Washington (SNA), West Virginia (SNA), Wisconsin (SNA), Wyoming (SNA)
Canada Alberta (SNA), British Columbia (SNA), Labrador (SNA), Manitoba (SNA), New Brunswick (SNA), Newfoundland Island (SNA), Northwest Territories (SNA), Nova Scotia (SNA), Ontario (SNA), Prince Edward Island (SNA), Quebec (SNA), Saskatchewan (SNA), Yukon Territory (SNA)

Other Statuses

NatureServe Global Conservation Status Factors

Other NatureServe Conservation Status Information

Distribution
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U.S. States and Canadian Provinces
Color legend for Distribution Map
NOTE: The distribution shown may be incomplete, particularly for some rapidly spreading exotic species.

U.S. & Canada State/Province Distribution
United States AKexotic, ALexotic, ARexotic, AZexotic, CAexotic, COexotic, CTexotic, DCexotic, DEexotic, FLexotic, GAexotic, HIexotic, IAexotic, IDexotic, ILexotic, INexotic, KSexotic, KYexotic, LAexotic, MA, MDexotic, MEexotic, MIexotic, MNexotic, MOexotic, MSexotic, MTexotic, NCexotic, NDexotic, NEexotic, NHexotic, NJexotic, NMexotic, NVexotic, NYexotic, OHexotic, OKexotic, ORexotic, PAexotic, RIexotic, SCexotic, SDexotic, TNexotic, TXexotic, UTexotic, VAexotic, VTexotic, WAexotic, WIexotic, WVexotic, WYexotic
Canada ABexotic, BCexotic, LBexotic, MBexotic, NBexotic, NFexotic, NSexotic, NTexotic, ONexotic, PEexotic, QCexotic, SKexotic, YTexotic

Range Map
No map available.

Ecology & Life History Not yet assessed
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Economic Attributes
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Economically Important Genus: Y
Management Summary Not yet assessed
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Population/Occurrence Delineation Not yet assessed
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Population/Occurrence Viability
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U.S. Invasive Species Impact Rank (I-Rank)
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Disclaimer: While I-Rank information is available over NatureServe Explorer, NatureServe is not actively developing or maintaining these data. Species with I-RANKs do not represent a random sample of species exotic in the United States; available assessments may be biased toward those species with higher-than-average impact.

I-Rank: Medium/Low
Rounded I-Rank: Medium
I-Rank Reasons Summary: Trifolium repens (white clover) is extremely widespread in the United States. It was introduced c. 1700 and has high economic importance as a forage plant, in addition to other uses such as erosion control, cover cropping, and wildlife plantings. Although establishing best in disturbed and open sites, it can invade a variety of native species habitats, including grasslands/meadows, heathlands, deciduous woodlands, boreal forest, riparian areas, and coastal beaches. T. repens is a nitrogen-fixing species, but it should not significantly alter nutrient cycling because of its preference for fertile soils and low biomass per area. Its greatest impacts likely result from its stoloniferous, mat-forming habit, which may interfere with establishment of native species, potentially including at least one endangered species (running buffalo clover, Trifolium stoloniferum).
Subrank I - Ecological Impact: Medium/Low
Subrank II - Current Distribution/Abundance: Medium
Subrank III - Trend in Distribution/Abundance: Low
Subrank IV - Management Difficulty: Medium/Insignificant
I-Rank Review Date: 18Jul2005
Evaluator: Gravuer, K.
Native anywhere in the U.S?
Native Range: Europe (Denmark, Faroe Islands, Finland, Iceland, Ireland, Norway, Sweden, United Kingdom, Austria, Belgium, Czechoslovakia, Germany, Hungary, Netherlands, Poland, Switzerland, Albania, Bulgaria, Greece, Italy, Romania, Yugoslavia, France, Portugal, Spain); Northern Africa (Algeria, Egypt, Libya, Morocco, Tunisia); Temperate Asia (Afghanistan, Cyprus, Iran, Iraq, Israel, Jordan, Lebanon, Syria, Turkey, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Georgia, Russian Federation [Ciscaucasia, Eastern Siberia, Western Siberia, Far East], Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan); Tropical Asia (Pakistan) (GRIN 2005).

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Screening Questions

S-1. Established outside cultivation as a non-native? YES
Comments: This species is a non-native that is established outside of cultivation (Kartesz 1999).

S-2. Present in conservation areas or other native species habitat? Yes
Comments: White clover occurs in most ecosystems (Coladonato 1993). These include grasslands/meadows (Coladonato 1993, Weber 2003, Alaska Natural Heritage Program 2004, Wisconsin State Herbarium 2005), heathlands (Weber 2003), deciduous woodlands (e.g. aspen and oak) (Coladonato 1993), boreal forests (Wisconsin State Herbarium 2005), riparian areas and ditches (Weber 2003, Alaska Natural Heritage Program 2004), and coastal beaches (Weber 2003).

Subrank I - Ecological Impact: Medium/Low

1. Impact on Ecosystem Processes and System-wide Parameters:Medium/Low significance
Comments: Trifolium repens is a nitrogen-fixing species (Coladonato 1993, Weber 2003, Alaska Natural Heritage Program 2004, Hannaway and Cool 2005), which will exert some impact on ecosystem nutrient and mineral dynamics. Its nitrogen fixation potential is rated as medium by the NRCS (NRCS 2005). It appears that habitats invaded by this species (grasslands/meadows, heathlands, deciduous woodlands, boreal forests, riparian areas and ditches, coastal beaches, waste areas and roadsides) should not typically be poor in nitrogen, with the possible exception of beaches and some heathlands. The plant itself is best adapted to fertile soil conditions (Hannaway and Cool 2005, NRCS 2005), and is diminutive (Hannaway and Cool 2005) (i.e. low biomass per area) and shallow-rooted (Coladonato 1993, Hannaway and Cool 2005). These features suggest that T. repens should not add large quantities of nitrogen to formerly nitrogen-poor soils.

2. Impact on Ecological Community Structure:Low significance
Comments: Trifolium repens is mat-forming due to its creeping and rooting stems, and mats may cover large areas (Weber 2003). Invaded areas may be vegetated or bare (Alaska Natural Heritage Program 2004). Such mats may cause moderate changes in the density or cover of the herbaceous layer.

3. Impact on Ecological Community Composition:Medium/Low significance
Comments: Trifolium repens is mat-forming; mats may cover large areas and reduce native species richness (Weber 2003). It can become dominant in both vegetated and bare areas, potentially delaying establishment of native species (Alaska Natural Heritage Program 2004). It may displace desirable vegetation if not properly managed (NRCS 2005).

4. Impact on Individual Native Plant or Animal Species:Moderate significance
Comments: Trifolium repens has been implicated as a threat to an endangered congener (running buffalo clover, T. stoloniferum) in Missouri; primary threats to T. stoloniferum in Missouri are listed as habitat loss and competition with introduced clover species...such as white clover (Conservation Commission of Missouri 1998, Taylor et al 1994).

5. Conservation Significance of the Communities and Native Species Threatened:Medium/Low significance
Comments: Trifolium repens has been implicated as a threat to an endangered (G3) congener (running buffalo clover, T. stoloniferum) in Missouri; primary threats to T. stoloniferum in Missouri are listed as habitat loss and competition with introduced clover species...such as white clover (Conservation Commission of Missouri 1998, Taylor et al 1994). Although it establishes best in disturbed sites (Weber 2003), it is widespread (Kartesz 1999, NRCS 2005) and invades many native species habitats (e.g. grasslands/meadows, heathlands, deciduous woodlands, boreal forests, riparian areas and ditches, and coastal beaches), some of which are likely of conservation value.

Subrank II. Current Distribution and Abundance: Medium

6. Current Range Size in Nation:High significance
Comments: Found in all 50 states + DC (Kartesz 1999, NRCS 2005). Available county distributions indicate widespread status within most states (e.g. NRCS 2005, Wunderlin and Hansen 2005, University of Tennessee Herbarium 2002).

7. Proportion of Current Range Where the Species is Negatively Impacting Biodiversity:Low significance
Comments: Although it establishes best in disturbed sites (Weber 2003), T. repens also invades native species habitats (e.g. grasslands/meadows, heathlands, deciduous woodlands, boreal forests, riparian areas and ditches, and coastal beaches) in some of its range. In some of these native areas, it may have effects such as reduce richness (Weber 2003) or delaying establishment (Alaska Natural Heritage Program 2004) of native species.

8. Proportion of Nation's Biogeographic Units Invaded:High significance
Comments: Established in at least 35 TNC ecoregions (Inferred using data from Kartesz 1999/NRCS 2005 and The Nature Conservancy 2001).

9. Diversity of Habitats or Ecological Systems Invaded in Nation:High significance
Comments: White clover occurs in most ecosystems (Coladonato 1993). These include grasslands/meadows (Coladonato 1993, Weber 2003, Alaska Natural Heritage Program 2004, Wisconsin State Herbarium 2005), heathlands (Weber 2003), deciduous woodlands (e.g. aspen and oak) (Coladonato 1993), boreal forest (Wisconsin State Herbarium 2005), riparian areas and ditches (Weber 2003, Alaska Natural Heritage Program 2004), and coastal beaches (Weber 2003). It also occurs in disturbed areas such as waste areas and roadsides (Coladonato 1993, Alaska Natural Heritage Program 2004).

Subrank III. Trend in Distribution and Abundance: Low

10. Current Trend in Total Range within Nation:Low significance
Comments: Found in all 50 states + DC (Kartesz 1999, NRCS 2005). Available county distributions indicate widespread status within most states (e.g. NRCS 2005, Wunderlin and Hansen 2005, University of Tennessee Herbarium 2002).

11. Proportion of Potential Range Currently Occupied:Insignificant
Comments: Given this species' extremely widespread distribution (Kartesz 1999), it is likely that it already occupies nearly all of its potential range.

12. Long-distance Dispersal Potential within Nation:High significance
Comments: Trifolium repens is economically important on a very large scale. Its major use is as a forage plant in pastures; Hannaway and Cool (2005) estimate that approximately 50 million acres of pastureland contain white clover as at least 10% of the species mixture. Consequently, it is available at most commercial seed stores (NRCS 2005) (e.g. vendor list in Hannaway and Cool 2005). Other uses include minespoil reclamation, erosion control, cover cropping, wildlife plantings, and landscaping (Coladonato 1993, Hannaway and Cool 2005). Additional dispersal mechanisms include wind, water, birds, and grazing animals (Coladonato 1993, Weber 2003, Hannaway and Cool 2005).

13. Local Range Expansion or Change in Abundance:Insignificant
Comments: This species was introduced circa 1700 by European settlers and has been planted for economic use in a majority of US states (Hannaway and Cool 2005). Populations are widespread and relatively dense (Alaska Natural Heritage Program 2004). Given the enormous past propagule pressure, it is likely that the species already occupies most suitable sites.

14. Inherent Ability to Invade Conservation Areas and Other Native Species Habitats:Medium/Low significance
Comments: Trifolium repens can invade canopy gaps in woody vegetation, and can grow in partial shade in woodlands (Coladonato 1993). However, it established best in disturbed and open sites (Weber 2003). In grasslands, it is good at invading bare ground but poor at invading moderately tall grass (Silvertown and Wilson 2000).

15. Similar Habitats Invaded Elsewhere:Low significance
Comments: Trifolium repens is established worldwide outside its native range; it lacks establishment reports for only tropical Africa and various islands (Weber 2003). It is invasive in natural areas in at least Australia (Weber 2003). It is suspected of having impacts in sub-alpine communities in an Australian national park (Godfree et al. 2004), but it is probably already established in similar areas in the US (Coladonato 1993). No other reports were found of presence in habitats that it has not already invaded in the US.

16. Reproductive Characteristics:High significance
Comments: Trifolium repens strongly exhibits the following characteristics: reproduces readily both vegetatively and by seed, has quickly spreading stolons that root at nodes, and has long-lived seeds (some viability after 30 years) (Coladonato 1993, Weber 2003, Alaska Natural Heritage Program 2004, Hannaway and Cool 2005).

Subrank IV. General Management Difficulty: Medium/Insignificant

17. General Management Difficulty:Low significance
Comments: Small infestations can be removed manually. It is easily removed from grassy areas using herbicides (Hannaway and Cool 2005). Several herbicides can be for control, including diuron, simazine, atrazine, or 2,4-D plus dicamba (Weber 2003, Alaska Natural Heritage Program 2004).

18. Minimum Time Commitment:High/Low significance
Comments: The seeds can be quite long-lived, possibly 25-30 years when conditions are ideal (Coladonato 1993, Alaska Natural Heritage Program 2004). Therefore, complete control is likely to take longer than 2 years.

19. Impacts of Management on Native Species:Medium significance/Insignificant
Comments: Because of the species' small size and shallow roots (Coladonato 1993, Hannaway and Cool 2005), hand pulling should not detrimentally affect natives. However, if herbicides are used, these may contact native species.

20. Accessibility of Invaded Areas:Medium/Low significance
Comments: Because of the extensive economic use of this species (Coladonato 1993, Hannaway and Cool 2005), it is likely that some infestations will occur on private lands. However, its preference to establish in previously disturbed areas and in reasonably fertile soils means that accessibility problems due to topography should not be major.
Authors/Contributors
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Botanical data developed by NatureServe and its network of natural heritage programs (see Local Programs), The North Carolina Botanical Garden, and other contributors and cooperators (see Sources).

References
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  • Alaska Natural Heritage Program. 2004, November 23, 2004 last update. Non-native plant species of Alaska: Trifolium repens L. Available: http://akweeds.uaa.alaska.edu/pdfs/species_bios_pdfs/Species_bios_TRRE.pdf (Accessed 2005).

  • Coladonato, M. 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: http://www.fs.fed.us/database/feis/ (Accessed 2005).

  • Conservation Commission of Missouri. 1998. Running buffalo clover. http://mdc.mo.gov/nathis/endangered/endanger/clover/ (Accessed 2005)

  • Godfree R.C., P.W.G. Chu, and M.J. Woods. 2004. White clover (Trifolium repens) and associated viruses in the subalpine region of south-eastern Australia: implications for GMO risk assessment. Australian Journal of Botany 52 (3): 321-331.

  • Godfree, R. 2003, August 1, 2003 last update. Summer Scholarships 2003-2004: Invasion Ecology: Investigating the prevalence of white clover (Trifolium repens) in native grasslands and woodlands. Available: http://www.anbg.gov.au/cpbr/summer-scholarship/2003-4-offer-godfree.html (Accessed 2005).

  • Hannaway, David and Marc Cool. 2005. Legume Species Fact Sheet, White Clover (Trifolium repens L.). Forage Information System. Oregon State University. http://forages.oregonstate.edu/main.cfm?Pageid=330&specid=29 (Accessed 2005).

  • Kartesz, J.T. 1994. A synonymized checklist of the vascular flora of the United States, Canada, and Greenland. 2nd edition. 2 vols. Timber Press, Portland, OR.

  • Kartesz, J.T. 1999. A synonymized checklist and atlas with biological attributes for the vascular flora of the United States, Canada, and Greenland. First edition. In: Kartesz, J.T., and C.A. Meacham. Synthesis of the North American Flora, Version 1.0. North Carolina Botanical Garden, Chapel Hill, N.C.

  • Meades, S.J. & Hay, S.G; Brouillet, L. 2000. Annotated Checklist of Vascular Plants of Newfoundland and Labrador. Memorial University Botanical Gardens, St John's NF. 237pp.

  • Silvertown, J. and J.B. Wilson. 2000. Spatial interactions among grassland plant populations. Pages 28-47 in: U. Dieckmann, R. Law, and J.A.J. Metz, editors. The geometry of ecological interactions: Simplifying species complexity. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, UK.

  • Taylor, N.L. 1994. Crossing and morphological relationships among native clovers of eastern North America. Crop Science 34(4): 1097-1100.

  • The Nature Conservancy. 2001. Map: TNC Ecoregions of the United States. Modification of Bailey Ecoregions. Online . Accessed May 2003.

  • USDA NRCS. 2005. The PLANTS Database, Version 3.5 (http://plants.usda.gov). National Plant Data Center (http://npdc.usda.gov/npdc/index.html), Baton Rouge, LA.

  • USDA, ARS, National Genetic Resources Program. 2001. Germplasm Resources Information Network - (GRIN). [Online Database]. National Germplasm Resources Laboratory, Beltsville, Maryland.URL: http://www.ars-grin.gov/cgi-bin/npgs/html/index.pl. (Accessed 2005)

  • University of Tennessee Herbarium and Austin Peay State University. 2002. Database of Tennessee Vascular Plants. Department of Botany, Knoxville. Online. Available: http://tenn.bio.utk.edu/vascular/vascular.html (accessed 2005).

  • Weber, E. 2003. Invasive plant species of the world: a reference guide to environmental weeds. CABI Publishing, Cambridge, Massachusetts. 548 pp.

  • Wisconsin State Herbarium. 2005. Wisconsin state herbarium vascular plant species database. Available: http://www.botany.wisc.edu/wisflora/. (Accessed 2005).

  • Wunderlin, R. P., and B. F. Hansen. 2005. Atlas of Florida Vascular Plants. [S. M. Landry and K. N. Campbell (application development), Florida Center for Community Design and Research.] Institute for Systematic Botany, University of South Florida, Tampa. Online. Available: http://www.plantatlas.usf.edu.

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