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Large Brown Clover

Trifolium spadiceum

  • Name also: Brown Moor Clover (USA)
  • Family: Pea Family – Fabaceae (Leguminosae)
  • Growing form: Biennial or occasionally annual herb.
  • Height: 20–35 cm (8–14 in.). Stem erect, quite glabrous. Taproot strong.
  • Flower: Corolla zygomorphic, initially golden yellow, soon dark brown–black, 4–6 mm (0.16–0.24 in.) long, fused at base. Petals 5; the upstanding the ‘standard’, the lateral two the ‘wings’, the lower two united to form the ‘keel’, overall shape of corolla being butterfly-like. Calyx 5-lobed, 2 lobes short and glabrous, 3 long and hairy. Stamens 10. A single carpel. Inflorescence a long-stalked, dense, up to 3 cm (1.2 in.) long, racemose head. Often 2 inflorescences united.
  • Leaves: Alternate, stalked, stipulate. Blade with 3 leaflets; leaflets elliptic, with shallowly toothed margins, terminal leaflet unstalked. Stipules mainly united with stalks, shorter than leaf-stalks.
  • Fruit: Indehiscent pod, remains inside calyx.
  • Habitat: Meadows, pasture, banks, hedgerows.
  • Flowering time: June–August.
  • Endangerment: Near threatened.

Apart from the fodder clovers, another species that arrived in Finland with cattle farming was large brown clover, which came from the south-east. The species settled in with the help of human activity beside other vegetation along open banks and the edges of fields, but it has never been an important fodder crop. As cattle were moved inside to cow-sheds or onto sown grazing land, the landscape gradually began to overgrow. Large brown clover has, like many other species that thrived in a traditional environment, declined sharply, and this trend is still continuing today. As the habitats created by traditional agriculture have disappeared, the species might also be found in waste ground and other unstable places – usually in areas that have been recently cultivated. The alkalization of fields might also affect where and how much large brown clover grows as it avoids lime.

Even eager ramblers might not meet large brown clover in Finland any more. It isn’t easy to find if it is growing sparsely among other meadow vegetation, even though the colour of its flower is quite unique in Finland in the wild: the golden yellow flowers soon turn blackish brown and stay that way until the seeds have ripened. It is still a mystery which pollinators find it inflorescence attractive.

Other species from the same genus
Other species from the same family

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