Trifolium incarnatum

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Standard Cyclopedia of Horticulture

Trifolium incarnatum, Linn. Crimson or Scarlet Clover. Fig. 1003, Vol. II. Annual, erect, 1-3 ft. high, soft- hairy: lvs. long-stalked, the lfts. broadly obovate and denticulate and sessile or nearly so by a cuneate base, the stipules large and thin and veiny and somewhat toothed: heads becoming 2-3 in. long, very dense: fls. sessile, bright crimson and showy, the calyx sharp-toothed and hairy. S. Eu. B.M. 328.—An escape in some places. Now much used as a cover-crop in orchards. See Cover-Crops. It is very showy when in bloom. If seeds are sown at midsummer or later, the plants may be expected to survive the winter and bloom early in spring.

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Crimson clover
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Crimson clover
Crimson clover
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Division: Magnoliophyta
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Class: Magnoliopsida
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Order: Fabales
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Family: Fabaceae
Subfamily: Faboideae
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Genus: Trifolium
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Species: T. incarnatum
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Binomial name
Trifolium incarnatum
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Type Species

Crimson clover (Trifolium incarnatum), also known as Italian clover, is a species of clover in the family Fabaceae, native to most of Europe. The species name incarnatum means "blood red".

This upright annual herb grows to 20-50 cm tall, unbranched or branched only at the base. The leaves are trifoliate with a long petiole, each leaflet hairy, 8-16 mm across, with a truncated or bilobed apex. The flowers are produced throughout the spring and summer, rich red or crimson, congested on an elongated spike inflorescence 3-5 cm tall and 1.5 cm broad; the individual flowers are up to 10-13 mm long and have five petals. The banner of each flower does not sit upright, but folds forward.

Cultivation and uses

Crimson clover growing in Texas.

Crimson clover is widely grown as a protein-rich forage crop for cattle and other livestock. It can typically be found in forest margins, fields and roadsides.

It is sown as quickly as possible after the removal of a grain crop at the rate of 20-22 kg/ha. It is found to succeed better when only the surface of the soil is stirred by the scarifier and harrow than when a ploughing is given. It grows rapidly in spring, and yields an abundant crop of green food, peculiarly palatable to live stock. It is also suitable for making into hay. Only one cutting, however, can be obtained, as it does not shoot again after being mown.

In Great Britain it is most valuable in the south, less successful in northern regions.

It has been introduced into the United States, originally as forage for cattle. It is often used for roadside erosion control, as well as beautification, even though it tends to eliminate all other desirable spring and early-summer species of native vegetation in the area which it is planted.

References and external links


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