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Crimson Clover

Trifolium incarnatum

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Plant Profile

Flowering Months:
Fabaceae (Pea)
Also in this family:
Alpine Milk-vetch, Alsike Clover, Birdsfoot, Birdsfoot Clover, Bird's-foot Trefoil, Bithynian Vetch, Bitter Vetch, Black Broom, Black Medick, Bladder Senna, Broad Bean, Broad-leaved Everlasting Pea, Bur Medick, Burrowing Clover, Bush Vetch, Clustered Clover, Common Broom, Common Gorse, Common Laburnum, Common Restharrow, Common Vetch, Crown Vetch, Dragon's Teeth, Dwarf Gorse, Dyer's Greenweed, False Acacia, Fine-leaved Vetch, Fodder Vetch, Garden Lupin, Garden Pea, Goat's Rue, Grass Vetchling, Greater Bird's-foot Trefoil, Hairy Bird's-foot Trefoil, Hairy Greenweed, Hairy Tare, Hairy Vetchling, Hairy-fruited Broom, Haresfoot Clover, Hop Trefoil, Horseshoe Vetch, Hungarian Vetch, Kidney Vetch, Knotted Clover, Large Trefoil, Lesser Trefoil, Lucerne, Marsh Pea, Meadow Vetchling, Narrow-leaved Bird's-foot Trefoil, Narrow-leaved Everlasting Pea, Narrow-leaved Vetch, Nootka Lupin, Norfolk Everlasting Pea, Orange Birdsfoot, Petty Whin, Purple Milk-vetch, Purple Oxytropis, Red Clover, Reversed Clover, Ribbed Melilot, Rough Clover, Russell Lupin, Sainfoin, Scorpion Senna, Scottish Laburnum, Sea Clover, Sea Pea, Sickle Medick, Slender Bird's-foot Trefoil, Slender Tare, Slender Trefoil, Small Melilot, Small Restharrow, Smooth Tare, Spanish Broom, Spanish Gorse, Spiny Restharrow, Spotted Medick, Spring Vetch, Strawberry Clover, Suffocated Clover, Sulphur Clover, Tall Melilot, Toothed Medick, Tree Lupin, Tuberous Pea, Tufted Vetch, Twin-headed Clover, Two-flowered Everlasting Pea, Upright Clover, Upright Vetch, Western Clover, Western Gorse, White Broom, White Clover, White Lupin, White Melilot, Wild Liquorice, Wood Vetch, Yellow Oxytropis, Yellow Vetch, Yellow Vetchling, Zigzag Clover
Life Cycle:
Maximum Size:
60 centimetres tall
Gardens, grassland, meadows, sea cliffs, seaside.

Variable in colour, 5 petals
The flowers can be of various colours. They are usually yellowish-white but can sometimes be pale pink. The subspecies 'incarnatum' (cultivated) has crimson-coloured flowers but is rarely seen growing wild these days. 'Incarnatum' means blood red and is in reference to the colour of the flowers. The flowers appear in tall, elongated clusters, measuring up to 6cm in height. Individual flowers are between 9 and 15mm across. Pollinated by bees.
The fruit is a one-seeded pod. The seeds ripen from July to October.
An annual flower, mainly found on the Lizard peninsula. Typical of clovers, the leaves are trefoil. The 3 leaflets are toothed.
Other Names:
Italian Clover, Long-headed Clover.
Frequency (UK):
Rarely seen  

Other Information


Trifolium incarnatum, also known as crimson clover or Italian clover, is a annual or biennial plant in the family Fabaceae. It is native to Europe and Asia and is found in grassland and meadow habitats. The plant has red or pink flowers that bloom in the summer. It grows to be about 60 cm (2 feet) tall and prefers well-drained, moist soil. It is often used as an ornamental plant in gardens, and it is also used as a natural dye and as a cover crop. Trifolium incarnatum is also used medicinally for its astringent and expectorant properties.


Crimson Clover (Trifolium incarnatum) is a flowering plant that belongs to the pea family (Fabaceae) and is native to Europe and Asia. This clover is a popular forage crop for livestock, especially for grazing animals such as cattle, sheep, and horses.

Crimson clover is a biennial or short-lived perennial plant that grows to be about 2-3 feet tall and has long, slender stems with alternating leaves. The leaves are oval-shaped, dark green and have three leaflets, hence the name "Trifolium" which means "three leaves". The plant produces small, pink to purple flowers that bloom in clusters on spikes at the top of the stem. The blooms appear from late spring to early summer, providing a valuable food source for pollinators such as bees, butterflies, and other insects.

This clover is prized for its ability to fix nitrogen in the soil. Nitrogen is an essential nutrient for plants, but most plants are unable to obtain it from the air. Crimson clover has a symbiotic relationship with bacteria in its roots, which convert atmospheric nitrogen into a form that the plant can use. This makes it an ideal crop for soil improvement and as a cover crop in fields, gardens and pastures.

Crimson clover is also a popular plant for wildlife habitat improvement, as it provides food and shelter for a variety of animals. The leaves and flowers are eaten by deer, rabbits, and other herbivores, while the dense growth habit provides cover for small mammals and ground-nesting birds. Additionally, it can be used as a food source for wild turkeys, pheasants, and other game birds.

Crimson clover is easy to grow and is well adapted to a wide range of growing conditions. It can be planted in full sun or partial shade, in soil that is well-drained but moist. It is a low-maintenance crop that does not require fertilization or pest control and is often used in rotational grazing systems for livestock.

Crimson Clover (Trifolium incarnatum) is a versatile and valuable crop for farmers, gardeners and wildlife enthusiasts. With its ability to fix nitrogen in the soil, provide food and shelter for wildlife, and its ease of growth, it is an excellent addition to any landscape.

Crimson Clover (Trifolium incarnatum) is also known for its medicinal properties and has been used for centuries in traditional medicine to treat various ailments. The leaves, stems and flowers of the plant are rich in compounds such as flavonoids, phenolic acids, and triterpenoids, which have antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, and antimicrobial effects.

Studies have shown that Crimson clover has the potential to help lower blood pressure and cholesterol levels, improve heart health, and alleviate symptoms of menopause. In addition, it has been used to treat skin conditions such as eczema, wounds and burns.

It is important to note, however, that while Crimson Clover is considered safe for consumption in small amounts, excessive consumption can lead to digestive problems and other health issues. Therefore, it is important to consult with a healthcare professional before using it as a medicinal herb.

When it comes to cultivation, Crimson Clover is very easy to grow from seeds. It can be sown directly in the ground in the spring or autumn or started in pots indoors and transplanted later. The plant prefers well-drained, moist soil and full sun or partial shade. Once established, it can be difficult to remove, so it is best to plant it in an area where it is desired long-term.

Crimson Clover (Trifolium incarnatum) is a versatile and valuable crop that is not only good for livestock and wildlife, but also has potential health benefits and medicinal properties. If you are looking for a low-maintenance, environmentally friendly and multi-functional plant, Crimson Clover is definitely worth considering.

Another benefit of Crimson Clover (Trifolium incarnatum) is its ability to improve soil health. The plant's deep root system helps to break up compacted soil, increase water infiltration and reduce erosion. This makes it a great choice for areas that have been over-grazed or damaged by farming or other land-use practices.

Crimson clover also helps to improve soil fertility. As mentioned earlier, the plant has a symbiotic relationship with bacteria in its roots, which fix nitrogen from the air into the soil. This provides a continuous supply of this essential nutrient to the plant and other crops grown in the same soil. This can help to reduce the need for chemical fertilizers, making it a sustainable choice for agriculture and gardening.

In addition, Crimson Clover is a hardy plant that can withstand harsh weather conditions and is able to thrive in a variety of soils. It can also be used in crop rotations to reduce the buildup of pests and diseases in the soil. This makes it a great choice for farmers and gardeners who are looking to reduce their dependence on chemicals and improve the health of their soil.

In conclusion, Crimson Clover (Trifolium incarnatum) is a plant with many benefits. Its ability to fix nitrogen, improve soil health and fertility, and provide food and shelter for wildlife, make it a valuable addition to any agricultural or gardening endeavor. Whether you are a farmer, gardener, or just looking to improve the sustainability of your landscape, Crimson Clover is a plant worth considering.


Crimson Clover filmed on the 22nd August 2023 in Rivington, Lancashire.


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Distribution Map

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