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Montana Field Guides

Cup Clover - Trifolium cyathiferum

Species of Concern
Native Species

Global Rank: G4
State Rank: S3
(see State Rank Reason below)

Agency Status
MNPS Threat Rank:
C-value: 3

External Links

State Rank Reason (see State Rank above)
Trifolium cyathiferum occurs in two counties with limited information on population size. One occurrence was re-visited in 1998 and found to be absent due to habitat succession.
  • Details on Status Ranking and Review
    Cup Clover (Trifolium cyathiferum) Conservation Status Review
    Review Date = 09/21/2016
    View State Conservation Rank Criteria
    Range Extent

    ScoreC - 250-1,000 sq km (~100-400 sq mi)

    Area of Occupancy

    ScoreD - 6-25 4-km2 grid cells

    Number of Populations

    ScoreB - 6 - 20

    Number of Occurrences or Percent Area with Good Viability / Ecological Integrity

    ScoreB - Very few (1-3) occurrences with excellent or good viability or ecological integrity

    Environmental Specificity

    ScoreD - Broad. Generalist or community with all key requirements common

    Long-term Trend

    ScoreU - Unknown


    ScoreG - Relatively Stable (<=10% change)


    ScoreD - Low

    CommentThreat categories include: Climate change & severe weather, Habitat shifting & alteration, Other ecosystem modifications.

General Description
Plants: Cup Clover is a hairless annual herb with ascending or erect stems which stand 1-5 dm tall (Hitchcock 1961).

Leaves: Small "3-leaf clover" leaves are borne alternately on the stems, each leaf having 2 lanceolate stipules (appendages), 4-10 mm long (Lesica 2012), at the base of a long petiole (stalk) which bears 3 broadly oblanceolate leaflets; leaflets 5-25 mm long, with fine spiny-toothed margins much of their length (Hitchcock 1961).

Inflorescence: Clover heads are borne on leafless peduncles (stalks which support an inflorescence, in this case, racemose) from leaf axils. Each head consists of 5-30 flowers nestled within a spreading to somewhat deeply cupped, prominently veined saucer-like involucre (a whorl of bracts which subtend an inflorescence) with 6-15 shallow, finely bristled lobes that are fused together; the heads are 5-15 mm long and about the same width (Hitchcock 1961).

(Lesica’s contribution adapted from Lesica 2012. Manual of Montana Vascular Plants. BRIT Press. Fort Worth, TX.)

Flowers late May-August, subject to elevational differences (Barneby et al. 1989).

Diagnostic Characteristics
This species is distinguished from other Montana Trifolium species by the combination of its annual habit, flower heads subtended by a shallowly-lobed, glabrous involucre, and lower calyx teeth with 2-3 bristle-tips (Lesica 2012. Manual of Montana Vascular Plants. BRIT Press. Fort Worth, TX).

Species Range

Range Comments
BC to CA, east to ID, NV and w MT. In Montana, Cup Clover is known from Missoula and Ravalli Counties (Lesica 2012. Manual of Montana Vascular Plants. BRIT Press. Fort Worth, TX).

Observations in Montana Natural Heritage Program Database
Number of Observations: 7

(Click on the following maps and charts to see full sized version) Map Help and Descriptions
Relative Density



(Observations spanning multiple months or years are excluded from time charts)

Wet meadows, sandy streambanks, roadsides; valleys, montane (Lesica 2012. Manual of Montana Vascular Plants. BRIT Press. Fort Worth, TX).

Reproductive Characteristics
Flowers: The small flowers are about 2-5 mm long and have bilateral symmetry. The calyx has a 13- to 20-nerved tube and 5 teeth; the teeth are usually somewhat longer than the tube, the lower 3 each having 2 or 3 bristle-like tips. The white, cream, or pink corolla is about as long as the tips of the calyx teeth, and consists of a banner (the large, hooding, upper segment), the wings (the side segments) and a keel (the prow-shaped bottom segment) (Hitchcock 1961).

Fruit: The fruit is a pod, typically with 2 seeds (Hitchcock 1961).

  • Literature Cited AboveLegend:   View Online Publication
    • Barneby, R.C., A. Cronquist, A.H. Holmgren, N.H. Holmgren, J.L. Reveal, P.K. Holmgren. 1989. Fabales. Intermountain Flora: Vascular Plants of the Intermountain West, U.S.A. Volume 3, Part B. Bronx, NY: New York Botanical Garden. 279 pp.
    • Douglas, G.W., D. Meidinger, and J. Pojar, editors. 1999. Illustrated Flora of British Columbia. Volume 3. Dicotyledons (Diapensiaceae through Onagraceae). British Columbia Ministry of Environment, Lands and Parks, and British Columbia Ministry of Forests, Victoria.
    • Hitchcock, C. L., A. Cronquist, M. Ownbey, and J. W. Thompson. 1961. Vascular Plants of the Pacific Northwest, Part 3. Saxifragaceae to Ericaceae. Seattle, WA and London, England: University of Washington. 614 pp.
    • Lesica, P., M.T. Lavin, and P.F. Stickney. 2012. Manual of Montana Vascular Plants. Fort Worth, TX: BRIT Press. viii + 771 p.
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Citation for data on this website:
Cup Clover — Trifolium cyathiferum.  Montana Field Guide.  .  Retrieved on , from