Trifolium arvense - L.
Rabbitfoot Clover
Other Common Names: rabbitfoot clover
Taxonomic Status: Accepted
Related ITIS Name(s): Trifolium arvense L. (TSN 26221)
Unique Identifier: ELEMENT_GLOBAL.2.151223
Element Code: PDFAB40090
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
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 arvense
Conservation Status

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 (30Sep2016)

U.S. & Canada State/Province Status
Due to latency between updates made in state, provincial or other NatureServe Network databases and when they appear on NatureServe Explorer, for state or provincial information you may wish to contact the data steward in your jurisdiction to obtain the most current data. Please refer to our Distribution Data Sources to find contact information for your jurisdiction.
United States Alabama (SNA), Arkansas (SNA), California (SNA), Connecticut (SNA), Delaware (SNA), District of Columbia (SNA), Florida (SNA), Georgia (SNA), Hawaii (SNA), Idaho (SNA), Illinois (SNA), Indiana (SNA), Iowa (SNA), Kentucky (SNA), Louisiana (SNA), Maine (SNA), Maryland (SNA), Massachusetts (SNR), Michigan (SNA), Minnesota (SNA), Mississippi (SNA), Missouri (SNA), Montana (SNA), New Hampshire (SNA), New Jersey (SNA), New York (SNA), North Carolina (SNA), North Dakota (SNA), Ohio (SNA), Oklahoma (SNA), Oregon (SNA), Pennsylvania (SNA), Rhode Island (SNA), South Carolina (SNA), Tennessee (SNA), Texas (SNA), Vermont (SNA), Virginia (SNA), Washington (SNA), West Virginia (SNA), Wisconsin (SNA)
Canada British Columbia (SNA), Manitoba (SNA), New Brunswick (SNA), Newfoundland Island (SNA), Nova Scotia (SNA), Ontario (SNA), Prince Edward Island (SNA), Quebec (SNA)

Other Statuses

NatureServe Global Conservation Status Factors

Other NatureServe Conservation Status Information

U.S. States and Canadian Provinces

Due to latency between updates made in state, provincial or other NatureServe Network databases and when they appear on NatureServe Explorer, for state or provincial information you may wish to contact the data steward in your jurisdiction to obtain the most current data. Please refer to our Distribution Data Sources to find contact information for your jurisdiction.
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 ALexotic, ARexotic, CAexotic, CTexotic, DCexotic, DEexotic, FLexotic, GAexotic, HIexotic, IAexotic, IDexotic, ILexotic, INexotic, KYexotic, LAexotic, MA, MDexotic, MEexotic, MIexotic, MNexotic, MOexotic, MSexotic, MTexotic, NCexotic, NDexotic, NHexotic, NJexotic, NYexotic, OHexotic, OKexotic, ORexotic, PAexotic, RIexotic, SCexotic, TNexotic, TXexotic, VAexotic, VTexotic, WAexotic, WIexotic, WVexotic
Canada BCexotic, MBexotic, NBexotic, NFexotic, NSexotic, ONexotic, PEexotic, QCexotic

Range Map
No map available.

Ecology & Life History Not yet assessed
Economic Attributes
Economically Important Genus: Y
Management Summary Not yet assessed
Population/Occurrence Delineation Not yet assessed
Population/Occurrence Viability
U.S. Invasive Species Impact Rank (I-Rank)
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: Low
Rounded I-Rank: Low
I-Rank Reasons Summary: Trifolium arvense is established in most of the eastern US, as well as in parts of the northwestern US and western California. It is best adapted to open habitats with sandy, nutrient-poor soils. Most established populations are found on roadsides and in other human-disturbed areas, but the species can also invade natural communities that feature these conditions, such as Palouse vegetation and pine barrens. In these more natural locations, the species' ability to fix nitrogen may have some biodiversity impact.
Subrank I - Ecological Impact: Low
Subrank II - Current Distribution/Abundance: Medium
Subrank III - Trend in Distribution/Abundance: Low
Subrank IV - Management Difficulty: Low/Insignificant
I-Rank Review Date: 22Aug2005
Evaluator: Gravuer, K.
Native anywhere in the U.S?
Native Range: Europe, temperate Asia, northern Africa, and northeast tropical Africa.
Africa: Algeria, Egypt, Libya, Morocco, Tunisia, Djibouti, Ethiopia, Sudan; Temperate Asia: Cyprus, Iran, Iraq, Israel, Lebanon, Syria, Turkey, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Georgia, Russian Federation (Ciscaucasia, Dagestan, Western Siberia [s.]), Kazakhstan, Turkmenistan; Europe: Denmark, Finland, Ireland, Norway, Sweden, United Kingdom, Austria, Belgium, Czechoslovakia, Germany, Hungary, Netherlands, Poland, Switzerland, Belarus, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Moldova, Russian Federation (European part), Ukraine [incl. Krym], Albania, Bulgaria, Greece [incl. Crete], Italy [incl. Sardinia, Sicily], Romania, Yugoslavia, France [incl. Corsica], Portugal [incl. Azores, Madeira Islands], Spain [incl. Baleares, Canary Islands] (GRIN 2001).

Download "An Invasive Species Assessment Protocol: Evaluating Non-Native Plants for their Impact on Biodiversity". (PDF, 1.03MB)
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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: Invades grasslands/meadows, riparian areas (riverbeds, lakeshores), coastal dunes, cliffs/coastal bluffs, sagebrush-grass community/Palouse vegetation, and woodland openings/pine barrens/forest edge (Farrell 1998, Weber 2003, Rice 2005, Wisconsin State Herbarium 2005).

Subrank I - Ecological Impact: Low

1. Impact on Ecosystem Processes and System-wide Parameters:Medium/Low significance
Comments: This species fixes nitrogen (Weber 2003). Although it is an herbaceous annual and therefore may not have high biomass per area, it does have a noted preference for nutrient-poor soils (Peat and Fitter 2005), indicating some potential to alter the nutrient balance in these areas.

2. Impact on Ecological Community Structure:Low significance
Comments: Because this species is adapted to nutrient-poor soils (Muenscher 1955, Weber 2003), some areas where it establishes may have been previously devoid of vegetation. Therefore, there is the potential for moderate changes in the density or cover of the herbaceous layer.

3. Impact on Ecological Community Composition:Low significance
Comments: This species appears to be a moderately successful competitor (APRS Implementation Team 2001). Although some sources suggest that it can crowd out native species or dominate communities (Weber 2003, City of Portland 2004), others suggest that it is minimally aggressive (Urban Forest Associates 2002). Therefore, it may be able to outcompete a few native species, but should not exert a significant influence on community composition.

4. Impact on Individual Native Plant or Animal Species:Insignificant
Comments: Although the species has been established outside cultivation for at least 150 years (Wisconsin State Herbarium 2005), no mention of impacts on individual native species was found in the literature. Assumption is that any impacts are not significant or perceivable.

5. Conservation Significance of the Communities and Native Species Threatened:Low significance
Comments: Although the majority of populations are found in human-disturbed areas, this species has also been reported from a number of native species habitats. In particular, its ability to invade pine barrens and natural Palouse vegetation may have conservation impact.

Subrank II. Current Distribution and Abundance: Medium

6. Current Range Size in Nation:High significance
Comments: Throughout the eastern US (except south Florida; Wunderlin and Hansen 2003), with approximate western boundary running through center of MN and IA, following western border of MO, running through center of OK and south from there through TX (Ownbey and Morley 1991, Weber et al. 2005, Hoagland et al. 2004, Diggs et al. 1999). Kartesz (1999) reports the species from ND and KS, but it appears to be very infrequent in those states (Great Plains Flora Association 1977). In the west, the range includes western MT, northern ID, WA, northern and western OR, and CA west of the Sierras (California floristic province) (Rice 2005, Hickman 1993).

7. Proportion of Current Range Where the Species is Negatively Impacting Biodiversity:Low significance/Insignificant
Comments: This species has particular potential to negatively impact biodiversity where natural communities are present on sandy, relatively open soils. These areas may include parts of eastern WA and OR, pine barren areas including those of NJ and WI, and coastal areas. It has also been reported as invasive by the National Park Service in HI (Swearingen 2005).

8. Proportion of Nation's Biogeographic Units Invaded:High significance
Comments: About 44 ecoregions are invaded, based on visual comparison of the generalized range and ecoregions map (The Nature Conservancy 2001).

9. Diversity of Habitats or Ecological Systems Invaded in Nation:Moderate significance
Comments: This species prefers sandy, nutrient-poor soils (Muenscher 1955, Weber 2003). The majority of populations are found in human-disturbed areas such as roadsides, waste places, and cultivated or previously cultivated fields (Rydberg 1932, Muenscher 1955, Steyermark 1963, Voss 1985, Seymour 1989, Isely 1991, Gleason and Cronquist 1991, Hickman 1993, Eilers and Roosa 1994, Diggs et al. 1999, Wunderlin and Hansen 2003, Weakley 2005). However, plants have also been reported from grasslands/meadows, riparian areas (riverbeds, lakeshores), coastal dunes, cliffs/coastal bluffs, sagebrush-grass community/Palouse vegetation, and woodland openings/pine barrens/ forest edge (Farrell 1998, Weber 2003, Rice 2005, Wisconsin State Herbarium 2005).

Subrank III. Trend in Distribution and Abundance: Low

10. Current Trend in Total Range within Nation:Medium/Low significance
Comments: This species is adapted to disturbed sites, so it is assumed that the range is not decreasing. Comparison of state, regional, and national floras also does not suggest recent or current spread in multiple directions, but the possibility of limited spread in some directions (e.g. further west from the western front of the eastern distribution) could not be ruled out.

11. Proportion of Potential Range Currently Occupied:Low significance
Comments: This species already occurs over a large area of the US. However, its establishment in MN and MT suggests that it should not be restricted from additional northern areas with sufficient moisture, and its establishment in eastern OR and WA suggests that moisture may be sufficient in a number of currently uninvaded states.

12. Long-distance Dispersal Potential within Nation:Medium/Low significance
Comments: Although its economic use in the US is limited, this species is occasionally planted as forage in some areas (Caddel 2004). In addition, seeds are wind-dispersed (Zohary and Heller 1984), so occasional long-distance dispersal events are possible.

13. Local Range Expansion or Change in Abundance:Low significance
Comments: No reports of local expansion were found, and comparison of state, regional, and national floras does not suggest rapid local expansion. However, one source reports the population trend of this species as growing (BayScience Foundation 2005), which is likely since it is adapted to disturbance.

14. Inherent Ability to Invade Conservation Areas and Other Native Species Habitats:Low significance
Comments: The habitats invaded by this species are generally open, and most either experience periodic natural or human-caused disturbance or are likely to contain microsites devoid of vegetation.

15. Similar Habitats Invaded Elsewhere:Moderate significance
Comments: This species has also established in at least Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Chile, and Japan (Randall 2002). In New Zealand, it has invaded a cushion plant/bare ground habitat (Jamieson 1996) seemingly similar to that present in WY, where it has not yet invaded in the US. In addition, its presence in dry, saline habitats in Australia (Norman et al. 2003) may indicate some potential to invade similar habitats in the southwestern US.

16. Reproductive Characteristics:Low significance
Comments: This species is capable of producing a long-term persistent seed bank (Peat and Fitter 2005). One source also reported some resprouting potential (APRS Implementation Team 2001). It does not exhibit any other aggressive reproductive characteristics.

Subrank IV. General Management Difficulty: Low/Insignificant

17. General Management Difficulty:Low significance
Comments: Recommended methods of control include improvement of soil fertility and herbicides (PBI/Gordon Corporation 2005); in natural communities, herbicides would presumably be the method of choice. Weber (2003) notes that the same control methods used for other Trifolium species may apply to this species, and that for Trifolium repens, several widely-available herbicides can be effective.

18. Minimum Time Commitment:Medium/Low significance
Comments: A variety of seedbank longevities have been reported for this species, from transient to long-term persistent (Peat and Fitter 2005). Therefore, typical control is assumed to take more than 2 years, but probably less than 10 years.

19. Impacts of Management on Native Species:Low significance/Insignificant
Comments: If herbicides are used, these may impact natives. However, some habitats in which this species occurs are sparsely vegetated, so in these locations impacts will probably be minimal.

20. Accessibility of Invaded Areas:Low significance/Insignificant
Comments: Most of the populations, which occur on open, disturbed sites, should not present access problems. However, cliff/coastal bluff populations may prove challenging.

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).

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