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Montana Field Guide

Montana Field Guides

Hollyleaf Clover - Trifolium gymnocarpon

Species of Concern
Native Species

Global Rank: G5
State Rank: S2
(see State Rank Reason below)

Agency Status
MNPS Threat Rank: 2

External Links

State Rank Reason (see State Rank above)
Known from many sites within the West Fork Bitterroot River drainage, which would encompass one large metapopulation. Also known in Montana from one disjunct occurrence in the Rock Creek drainage on the Lolo National Forest. Invasive weeds, particularly spotted knapweed, are a problem in some of the habitat occupied by the species. However, Trifolium gymmocarpon, as with other clover species, appears capable of tolerating or even benefitting from some disturbance.
General Description
Hollyleaf Clover forms clumps with many stems that are ca. 15 cm high and arising from a branched rootcrown and a stout taproot. The leaves arise from the base of the stems and have membranous appendages that are 5-15 mm long at the base and which remain as shreds on the rootcrown. Each leaf has three ovate leaflets that are 5-20 mm long with sharply toothed margins. The herbage is sparsely covered with straight, appressed hairs. Three to 15 spreading to nodding flowers are borne in loose clusters at the ends of peduncles, which are usually shorter than the leaves. The light yellow to flesh-colored flowers are 8-14 mm long and have a hood-shaped upper petal, or banner, and two narrow, separate petals on the side (wings); the two lower petals are united into a boat-shaped petal, or keel. The densely long-hairy calyx is 1/3 to 1/2 as long as the corolla and is tubular at the base but forms 5 long, triangular teeth at the mouth. The small fruit pod usually has a single seed.

Flowering in May-July.

Diagnostic Characteristics
This is our only tufted clover without leafy stems that occurs below the subalpine zone.

Species Range

Range Comments
Northeast OR to northeast CA and northern AZ, east to MT and NM. Peripheral.

Observations in Montana Natural Heritage Program Database
Number of Observations: 88

(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)

Open woods and slopes, usually in dry soil of sagebrush steppe to ponderosa pine forest in the foothills to lower montane zone.

Ecological Systems Associated with this Species

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Citation for data on this website:
Hollyleaf Clover — Trifolium gymnocarpon.  Montana Field Guide.  .  Retrieved on , from