Trifolium pratense - red clover

Trifolium pratense

Name

The genus name “Trifolium” means three-leaved grass. The specific name “pratense” is latin for “found in meadows”.

Also Known as

  • red clover
  • beebread
  • broad red
  • cleaver grass
  • cow clover
  • cow grass
  • marl grass
  • meadow clover
  • meadow honeysuckle
  • meadow trefoil
  • purple clover
  • trefoil
  • wild clover

Identification Keys

  • perennial herbaceous
  • usually upright but may also creep on the ground, producing stems and fibrous roots at nodes
  • grows to 20-80 cm tall
  • alternate, palmate-compound leaves
  • leaves arise from a long, slender, branching downy stem
  • leave is trifoliate (with three leaflets)
  • leaflet oval to elliptical
  • leaflet 15–30 mm long and 8–15 mm broad, green with a characteristic pale crescent in the outer half of the leaf
  • leaflet has a V-shaped chevron in the outer half
  • a midrib runs down the leaflet length, creating a seam
  • rounded flower head with up to 60 tiny, bilateral-symmetrical, magenta, pea-like flowers
  • tiny brown seeds

Bloom Time

  • late spring – early fall

Habitat

  • fields
  • disturbed habitats
  • trailsides
  • roadsides
  • parks
  • sunny places
  • meadows
  • pastures
  • open fields
  • lawns

Look-alikes

  • Trifolium repens (white clover) resembles red clover, but it’s smaller with white flowers and leaves arising from separate stems
  • Oxalis spp. (wood sorrel), also edible, is often confused with clover, but it has heart-shaped and completely different flowers

Medicine Uses

Parts Used

flowering top

Actions

alterative, antioxidant, antispasmodic, aperient, diuretic, expectorant, sedative, oestrogenic

Systems

Circulation

  • prevents hypertension

Respiratory system

  • antispasmodic for whooping-cough, dry cough, bronchitis and asthma

Immune system

  • useful as a detoxifying herb for cancer of the breast and lung
  • benefits lymphatic system

Musculoskeletal system

  • protects from osteoporosis
  • used for arthritis and gout

Reproductive system

  • increases follicle-stimulanting hormones
  • useful for menopausal issues such as hot flushes, night sweats and insomnia
  • helpful in mastitis
  • guard against prostate problems

Externally

  • apply poultices to skin problems and cancerous growth

Caution

  • avoid in bleeding disorders, pregnancy and breast-feeding
  • diseased clover can contain toxic alkaloids
  • use with caution with anticoagulants and contraceptives

Food Uses

Parts Used

flowers, leaves

Main Uses

potherb, salad, tea

Nutrition

  • vitamin C
  • vitamin B1, B3
  • vitamin E
  • calcium
  • chromium
  • magnesium
  • phosphorus
  • potassium

Cooking

  • add the raw flowers to salads
  • cook (10-15 min) the flowers in any dish that calls for vegetables. They cook in about 10 to 15 minutes
  • dehydrate flower, grind them into powder. Add to whole-grain flour to use in breads
  • make an infusion with the freshest flower heads and few leaves
  • cook (15 min) the leaves like other greens
  • sprouted seeds are edible in salads


Harvesting

Harvesting Season

  • the leaves are barely edible in early spring but can be used in tea
  • the flowers are at their peak in late spring, but good ones are also available in the summer and fall

Harvesting Methods

  • pick the young leaves and the flower heads by hand
  • collect the most attractive-looking flower heads
  • avoid those that still include some immature, green flowers
  • collect completely brown flowers (contain seeds) and use them to supplement the protein of whole grains in breads

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