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Montana Field Guide

Montana Field Guides

Woolly Clover - Trifolium microcephalum

Species of Concern
Native Species

Global Rank: G5
State Rank: S3

Agency Status
MNPS Threat Rank:
C-value: 3

External Links

General Description
Plants: Annuals with a fibrous root system and up to several stems. Stems erect to prostrate with ascending tips, 10-70 cm in length (Douglas et al. 1999); herbage villous to hirsute (Lesica 2012), densely so on the bottom of the involucre and top of the peduncle (Barneby 1989).

Leaves: Palmately compound, alternate (Douglas et al. 1999); leaflets 3, 5-16 mm in length, 2.5-9 mm in width (Barneby 1989), obovate, the margins serrate distally; stipules 5–10 mm long, lanceolate, adnate to the petiole (Lesica 2012), the margins smooth to shallowly toothed (Barneby 1989), occasionally with a bristle tip (Douglas et al. 1999); petioles usually 1-4.5 cm in length, although the far distal ones may be shorter (Barneby 1989).

Inflorescences: Racemes axillary, 5–10 mm long, longer than the leaves, subtended by a villous, saucer-shaped involucre of partially fused bracts (Lesica 2012); involucre 5-12 mm across, split about halfway into 5-11 lobes; lobes entire to 3-toothed (Barneby 1989), papery, bristle-tipped and typically untoothed (Douglas et al. 1999); heads a half-sphere becoming ovoid, each with about 7-40 flowers (Barneby 1989).

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

Flowering June-August (Barneby 1989).

Diagnostic Characteristics
Resembles White-tip Clover (T. variegatum) in structure, habit, and flower-head size, and is associated with it in wet meadows. However, Woolly Clover has long, soft hairs nearly all over, thickly so at the uppermost part of the peduncle and bottom of the involucre, and usually just a single seed. White-tip Clover is glabrous and usually 2 seeded (Barneby 1989).

Species Range

Range Comments
BC, MT south to CA, AZ and Mexico. In Montana, known in 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: 12

(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)

Moist meadows (Barneby 1989), sandy banks along rivers to dry hillsides (Hitchcock et al. 1961).

Reproductive Characteristics
Flowers: Flowers white to pink, 4–5 mm long; calyx villous basally, 3-5 mm in length, nearly as long as the corolla (Lesica 2012), the tube with 10 ribs and 1.6-2.3 mm in length, the teeth triangular and spine-tipped, entire and ca 1.5-3 mm in length (Barneby 1989).

Fruit: Legume obovoid to oval, 1.5-2 mm in length, the valves weakly networked with ridges or slightly gritty distally, enclosing 1 (Barneby 1989) or 2 seeds (Lesica 2012).

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

  • 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.
    • Lesica, P., M. T. Lavin, and P. F. Stickney. 2012. Manual of Montana Vascular Plants. Fort Worth, TX: BRIT Press. viii + 771 p.
  • Web Search Engines for Articles on "Woolly Clover"
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Citation for data on this website:
Woolly Clover — Trifolium microcephalum.  Montana Field Guide.  .  Retrieved on , from