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Weed Description: A perennial with trifoliate leaves and pink to red flowers. Red clover is often planted as a component of pasture and forage mixes, but sometimes escapes to become a weed of turfgrass, lawns, landscapes, and orchards. Seedlings: Cotyledons are spatula-shaped, 6-7 mm long, without hairs. The first true leaf is solitary, oval in shape, and cut off squarely at the base (truncate). All subsequent leaves consist of 3 leaflets (trifoliate). Roots: A fibrous root system and stems that root at the nodes. Leaves: Consist of 3 leaflets (trifoliate). Each leaflet is elliptic in outline, approximately 1/2 to 1 1/4 inches long and about half as wide. Leaves are usually hairy on both surfaces or sometimes without hairs above and hairy beneath. Each leaf usually has a light green or white 'V-shaped' marking. Stems: Growing somewhat prostrate but ranging from 8 to 20 inches in height. Stems are sometimes without hairs but can be slightly hairy, and root at the nodes. Flowers: Occur in round to oval heads usually on flower stalks (peduncles) less than 5 mm long, but also without flower stalks (sessile). Individual flower heads are pink to red in color, 1/2 to 1 1/4 inches in length. Fruit: A pod known as a legume, 4 to 5 mm long.
Range & Habitat: Red Clover is a common plant that occurs in every county of Illinois. It was introduced from Eurasia as a fodder crop for farm animals and as a cover crop to improve agricultural soil. Habitats include fields, pastures, weedy meadows, vacant lots, grassy areas along roads, waste areas, and degraded prairie remnants. This plant occurs in native habitats occasionally, but it is only slightly to moderately aggressive. It is often found in grassy areas that are not subjected to regular mowing.
Among the various Trifolium spp. (Clovers), Red Clover is fairly easy to identify because of its large pink flowerheads and the white chevrons on its leaflets. It is unusual among the clovers in having sessile leaflets at the base of the flowerheads. There is some variability in the hairiness of the foliage and the color of the flowers. The common name is somewhat misleading because the flowers are never a true red. On rare occasions, a compound leaf will produce 4 or more leaflet