Red clover

Red clover flower (Trifolium pratens)
Red Clover is a native plant belonging to the same family as peas and beans. This common edible plant has long been used for its medicinal properties, treating health conditions such as cough, skin complaints and menopausal symptoms.

Table of Contents

Red clover: Plant profile

Common names

Red clover, Purple Clover, Trefoil, Meadow Clover, Cow Clover, Seamair Dhearg

Botanical name

Trifolium pratense

Family

Fabaceae (Pea)

Distribution

Native to Europe, Western Asia and North Africa and naturalised around the world. Distributed throughout the UK and Ireland.

Where to find Red Clover

Lawns, pastures, roadsides and meadows.

When to find Red Clover

Flowers late spring to early autumn and leaves spring.

How to identify Red Clover

Red Clover is a low growing herbaceous perennial. The leaves are trifoliate, which means there are three leaflets opposing each other on one stem. The leaves are also oval and green with a white or pale green v-shape. The flower heads are round, composed of small tubular flowers that are purple in colour.

Red Clover lookalikes

Other Clover species (Trifolium sp.) are similar, such as White Clover (Trifolium repens), which has similar leaves but white flowers, or Alsike Clover (Trifolium hybridum).

Wood Sorrel (Oxalis Acetosella) can look similar, but it has heart shaped leaves and the leaves are more vibrant green.

Red clover leaves (Trifolium pratens)

All about Red Clover

Clover is an herbaceous low growing perennial easily recognisable by their mid-green trifoliate leaves with a characteristic pale v-shaped mark. The flowers are made up of a number of tiny individual florets and are purple, despite its name. The seeds, which are just like  tiny peas, are found at the base of the flowers.

Bees and butterflies are attracted in numbers to the tiny round flowers that grow amongst the long lush grass, with the promise of their rich sweet nectar. Even children used to suck the base of the flower to appreciate this little drop of sweet nectar released by the heat of the sun.

Medicinal properties of Red Clover

Red clover is an herb with a long history of medicinal usage, mainly taken for cough, skin complaints and menopausal symptoms.

The flowers can be applied externally for skin conditions such as acne, burns, eczema, psoriasis and syrup is ideal for stubborn coughs, sinusitis or bronchitis.

The plant contains isoflavones, which are phytoestrogens. Those are compounds similar to the female hormone estrogen.

Culinary use and recipes with Red Clover

Both leaves and flowers are edible. The blossoms have a gentle and sweet taste with a hint of bean flavour when eaten raw.

Break up the flower heads and sprinkle the blossoms into salads. They are also a good addition in baking and look beautiful as a garnish.

Red clover flower (Trifolium pratens)

Safe foraging of Red Clover

The leaves are edible but may cause bloating.

Do not consume if pregnant or breastfeeding.

Ecological importance of Red Clover

Red Clover provides nitrogen to the soil, protecting it from erosion.

The flowers of Red Clover are a source of food for pollinating insects, such as the common carder bee, honeybee and the red-tailed bumblebee.

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Alvaro Docio

Alvaro Docio

I am the person behind British Local Food. As a forager and wild food educator, my aim is to inspire you to go outdoors, familiarise with your local plants and make the best of their culinary and medicinal properties, in the hope you'd pass on any knowledge gained down to the next generation.

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