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Lesser Trefoil

Trifolium dubium

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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, Crimson Clover, 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, 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:
25 centimetres tall
Fields, gardens, grassland, lawns, meadows, mountains, roadsides, towns, wasteland, woodland.

Yellow, 5 petals
The flowers of Lesser Trefoil exhibit a dainty charm, characterized by their petite, bright yellow petals that gracefully cluster at the terminus of slender stems. Each flower, composed of multiple delicate petals, forms a picturesque inflorescence that stands out against the verdant backdrop of meadows and lawns. These blooms, with their cheerful hue, attract pollinators like bees and butterflies, contributing to the biodiversity of British landscapes. The compact nature of the flowers adds an understated elegance to the plant, creating a visual spectacle that is both subtle and captivating, particularly when observed in the gentle breezes of the British countryside. Up to 20 flowers per head. Similar looking flower as Black Medick.
The fruit of Lesser Trefoil, commonly known as the seed or seed capsule, is a small, rounded structure that forms after the flowering stage. Enclosed within the diminutive pod are the seeds of the plant, and as the fruit matures, it transitions from a green hue to a more subdued brown or tan color. The capsule, often referred to as a 'seed head,' contains several small, spherical seeds. Upon reaching maturity, the capsule splits open, releasing the seeds to the surrounding environment. This process contributes to the plant's reproductive cycle, allowing for the dispersion of seeds and the potential establishment of new Lesser Trefoil plants across the British landscape.
Trifoliate leaves, clover-like in appearance. Similar looking to Black Medick except the tips of the leaflets are a slightly different shape. With Lesser Trefoil the tips of the leaflets are notched ever so slightly, whereas Black Medick leaflets have a slight protrusion. However, the difference is not always that obvious so careful observation is usually necessary in order to ensure identification is correct.
Lesser Trefoil is not typically known for a distinctive fragrance, as its primary allure lies in visual and ecological attributes rather than olfactory characteristics. The plant's diminutive yellow flowers, while visually charming, generally lack a strong or noticeable scent. As a result, Lesser Trefoil is not cultivated or appreciated for its fragrance in the same manner as aromatic flowers. The plant's appeal often stems from its adaptability, visual aesthetics, and contributions to ecosystems rather than any notable aromatic properties.
Other Names:
Cowhop Clover, Hop Clover, Irish Shamrock, Least Hop Clover, Lesser Hop Trefoil, Lesser Yellow Trefoil, Little Hop Clover, Low Hop Clover, Shamrock, Shamrock Clover, Small Hop Clover, Suckling Clover, Yellow Clover, Yellow Shamrock, Yellow Shamrock Clover, Yellow Suckling Clover, Yellow Trefoil.
Frequency (UK):

Similar Species

Other Information


Trifolium dubium, also known as lesser trefoil or small hop clover, is a small, low-growing perennial herb in the pea family (Fabaceae) native to Europe and Asia. It is commonly found in grasslands, pastures, and along roadsides. The plant has small, yellow flowers and trifoliate leaves. It is often used as a forage crop for livestock and as a cover crop for soil conservation. It is a short-lived perennial and can be used in a mixture with other clovers to extend the period of forage production.


Lesser Trefoil, scientifically known as Trifolium dubium, is a small herbaceous plant that belongs to the Fabaceae family. This plant is also commonly referred to as "slim-leaved clover" and is found in many parts of Europe, Asia, and North America.


The Lesser Trefoil has small, delicate leaves that are arranged in a three-leaf clover pattern, hence its name "trefoil." The leaves are usually green and are arranged in a circular pattern around the stem. The flowers of this plant are small and yellow, and they are arranged in clusters at the top of the plant. The flowers of the Lesser Trefoil are often visited by a variety of pollinators, including bees, butterflies, and hoverflies.


The Lesser Trefoil is a hardy plant that can grow in a variety of soils and environments. It is often found in meadows, grasslands, and pastures, but it can also grow along roadsides, in fields, and in waste areas. This plant is especially well adapted to growing in areas that are dry and hot, and it can often be found in areas that are disturbed by human activities.


The Lesser Trefoil has a variety of uses, both for wildlife and for humans. This plant is an important food source for many species of wildlife, including rabbits, deer, and hares, who feed on the leaves and flowers of the plant. In addition, the Lesser Trefoil is a popular plant for wildlife gardens and meadows, as it provides food and habitat for a variety of pollinators and other wildlife species.

For humans, the Lesser Trefoil is sometimes used as a medicinal plant. The plant has been used to treat a variety of ailments, including coughs, colds, and digestive problems. In addition, the roots of the Lesser Trefoil are sometimes used to make a type of beer.

The Lesser Trefoil is a small, delicate plant that is often overlooked, but it is an important part of the ecosystem and has a variety of uses for both wildlife and humans. Whether you are looking to add a touch of nature to your yard or to provide food and habitat for wildlife, the Lesser Trefoil is a great choice.


The Lesser Trefoil is an easy plant to cultivate, and it can be grown from seed. The seeds should be sown in the spring or fall, and they should be planted in a well-drained soil that is rich in organic matter. The plant prefers full sun to partial shade, and it should be watered regularly during dry periods. The Lesser Trefoil is a low-maintenance plant that does not require much care once it is established, making it a great choice for gardeners who are looking for a low-maintenance option.

In terms of maintenance, the Lesser Trefoil should be mowed or trimmed back in late summer to prevent the plant from going to seed and to encourage new growth. In addition, the plant should be thinned out periodically to prevent it from becoming overcrowded.

Benefits for Wildlife

The Lesser Trefoil is an important food source for many species of wildlife, including rabbits, deer, and hares. In addition, the plant provides habitat for a variety of pollinators, including bees, butterflies, and hoverflies. The flowers of the Lesser Trefoil are also an important source of nectar for these pollinators, and the plant is a valuable addition to any wildlife garden or meadow.

In terms of habitat, the Lesser Trefoil provides shelter and protection for a variety of wildlife species, including small mammals, reptiles, and birds. The plant also provides a source of cover and nesting sites for birds, and it is an important component of the ecosystem.

The Lesser Trefoil is a small but important plant that provides food, habitat, and other benefits to wildlife. Whether you are looking to add a touch of nature to your yard or to provide food and habitat for wildlife, the Lesser Trefoil is a great choice. With its delicate leaves, small yellow flowers, and low maintenance requirements, the Lesser Trefoil is a beautiful and valuable addition to any garden or meadow.

Invasive Species

In some parts of the world, the Lesser Trefoil has become an invasive species. This is because the plant is able to adapt to a variety of soils and climates, and it is able to spread quickly in new areas. In addition, the plant is often spread by humans, who may inadvertently spread the seeds when they move soil or compost from one location to another.

In invasive areas, the Lesser Trefoil can outcompete native plants for resources, leading to a decline in native plant populations. This can have a negative impact on the ecosystem, as the decline in native plant populations can reduce the availability of food and habitat for wildlife.

However, in areas where the Lesser Trefoil is not invasive, it can be a valuable addition to the ecosystem. The plant provides food and habitat for a variety of wildlife species, and it is an important component of the ecosystem.

Management of Invasive Populations

If you are concerned about the spread of the Lesser Trefoil in your area, there are a few things that you can do to manage its growth. One option is to remove the plants by hand, being sure to remove all of the roots to prevent regrowth. You can also use herbicides to control the growth of the Lesser Trefoil, but be sure to use these products according to the manufacturer's instructions to avoid harming other plants or the environment.

Another option is to encourage the growth of native plants in the area. This will help to reduce the competition for resources and reduce the spread of the Lesser Trefoil. In addition, you can avoid spreading the seeds of the Lesser Trefoil by being careful when you move soil or compost from one location to another.

The Lesser Trefoil is a versatile plant that can provide food and habitat for a variety of wildlife species. However, in some parts of the world, the plant has become an invasive species, leading to a decline in native plant populations. If you are concerned about the spread of the Lesser Trefoil in your area, there are steps that you can take to manage its growth and promote the growth of native plants. Whether you are looking to control the spread of the Lesser Trefoil or to provide food and habitat for wildlife, it is important to be informed about this versatile and sometimes controversial plant.

Uses in Traditional Medicine

In traditional medicine, the Lesser Trefoil has been used for a variety of purposes. The plant has been used as a remedy for digestive problems, including diarrhea and abdominal pain. The leaves and stems of the plant are often used in teas and decoctions, and they are believed to have a soothing effect on the digestive system.

In addition, the Lesser Trefoil has been used as a wound healer. The plant contains compounds that are believed to have antiseptic properties, and it has been used to treat cuts, bruises, and other types of wounds. The plant has also been used to treat skin conditions, including eczema and psoriasis.

It is important to note that the safety and effectiveness of the Lesser Trefoil for these purposes have not been extensively studied, and more research is needed to determine its true benefits. As with any natural remedy, it is important to talk to a doctor before using the Lesser Trefoil for medicinal purposes, especially if you have any underlying health conditions or are taking any medications.


The Lesser Trefoil is a versatile and attractive plant that provides food and habitat for a variety of wildlife species. In traditional medicine, the plant has been used for a variety of purposes, including as a remedy for digestive problems and as a wound healer. While more research is needed to determine the true benefits of the Lesser Trefoil, it is an interesting plant that is worth learning more about. Whether you are looking to add a touch of nature to your yard, provide food and habitat for wildlife, or explore the potential benefits of traditional medicine, the Lesser Trefoil is a plant that is worth considering.

30 Stunning Lesser Trefoil Facts

  1. Scientific Name: Lesser Trefoil is scientifically known as Trifolium dubium.

  2. Tiny Perfection: It is a small, delicate plant with trifoliate leaves, each consisting of three leaflets.

  3. Global Distribution: Lesser Trefoil is native to Europe but has become widespread across North America and other continents.

  4. Commonly Spotted: You can often find Lesser Trefoil in lawns, meadows, and along roadsides.

  5. Yellow Blooms: The plant produces small, bright yellow flowers that form clusters at the ends of the stems.

  6. Edible for Livestock: It is a valuable forage plant for livestock as it is rich in nutrients and palatable.

  7. Weed Indicator: Lesser Trefoil is considered an indicator of well-drained, fertile soils.

  8. Resilient Growth: Known for its adaptability, Lesser Trefoil can thrive in various soil types and environmental conditions.

  9. Annual or Perennial: It can function as both an annual and a perennial plant, depending on its growing conditions.

  10. Seed Production: Lesser Trefoil is prolific in seed production, contributing to its ability to spread easily.

  11. Nitrogen Fixation: Like other legumes, it has the ability to fix nitrogen in the soil, benefiting surrounding plants.

  12. Wildlife Attraction: The flowers attract bees, butterflies, and other pollinators, contributing to local biodiversity.

  13. Traditional Medicine: In some folk medicine traditions, Lesser Trefoil has been used for its potential medicinal properties.

  14. Low-Growing Habit: Typically, it forms a low-growing mat, making it ideal for ground cover in certain landscapes.

  15. Drought Tolerance: Lesser Trefoil exhibits tolerance to drought conditions, making it resilient in various climates.

  16. Invasive Potential: While it serves as a valuable forage plant, Lesser Trefoil can be invasive in certain ecosystems.

  17. Culinary Uses: Some cultures incorporate Lesser Trefoil into salads or use it as a garnish.

  18. Mimicry: The plant's leaves can resemble those of clover, leading to occasional misidentification.

  19. Root System: It develops a fibrous root system, aiding in soil stabilization.

  20. Seed Dispersal: Seeds are dispersed by attachment to animals or by water, facilitating its spread.

  21. Life Cycle: The life cycle of Lesser Trefoil includes germination, growth, flowering, and seed production.

  22. Natural Erosion Control: Its mat-forming habit helps control soil erosion in certain environments.

  23. Cultural Significance: In some cultures, Lesser Trefoil holds symbolism related to luck and protection.

  24. Adaptable to Mowing: Lesser Trefoil can withstand mowing and grazing, making it suitable for lawns and pastures.

  25. Biennial Variation: In some regions, it may behave as a biennial, completing its life cycle over two years.

  26. Soil Enrichment: As a nitrogen-fixing plant, Lesser Trefoil contributes to soil fertility.

  27. Seed Bank: It can contribute to a persistent seed bank in the soil, leading to its recurring presence.

  28. Agricultural Rotation: Farmers may include Lesser Trefoil in crop rotation plans to enhance soil health.

  29. Seasonal Growth: Growth patterns can vary with seasons, with increased activity during warmer months.

  30. Conservation Role: Lesser Trefoil can play a role in conservation efforts, supporting biodiversity and ecological balance.


Lesser Trefoil filmed at Clattinger Farm in Wiltshire on the 28th June 2023.


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Distribution Map

Reproduced by kind permission of the BSBI.

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