Toxic parts

This plant has been known to cause problems for grazing animals, though this has never happened in Britain[1]. The problem may be associated with the climate in which the plant is growing[1]. The species is polymorphic for cyanogenic glycosides[2]. The leaves and flowers of certain cyanogenic phenotypes contain a glycoside which releases cyanide on contact with the enzyme linamarase[2].

Edible uses


Leaves - raw or cooked as a potherb[3][4][5]. The young leaves are harvested before the plant comes into flower and are used in salads, soups etc[6]. They can also be used as a vegetable, cooked like spinach[6]. The leaves are best cooked[7].

Flowers and seed pods are dried, ground into powder and used as a flour or sprinkled on cooked foods such as boiled rice[5]. Very wholesome and nutritious[8]. The young flowers can also be used in salads[9][7][5]. Root - cooked[7][10]. The dried leaves impart a vanilla flavour to cakes etc[7].

Dried flowering heads are a tea substitute.

Material uses

The plant makes a good green manure, it is useful for over-wintering, especially in a mixture with Lolium perenne[11]. Produces a good bulk. It is a host to 'clover rot' however, so should not be used too frequently[11]. It can be undersown with cereals or with tomatoes in a greenhouse (sow the seed before planting the tomatoes)[11]. Fairly deep rooting but not very fast growing[11]. A good fast ground-cover plant for a sunny position[11].
There are no material uses listed for Trifolium repens.

Medicinal uses(Warning!)

The plant is antirheumatic, antiscrophulatic, depurative, detergent and tonic[2]. An infusion has been used in the treatment of coughs, colds, fevers and leucorrhoea[12].

A tincture of the leaves is applied as an ointment to gout[2].

An infusion of the flowers has been used as an eyewash[12].


Ecosystem niche/layer

Soil surface

Ecological Functions

Green manure


Ground cover


Nitrogen fixer


Nothing listed.


Nothing listed.


Pre-soak the seed for 12 hours in warm water and then sow in spring in situ.

If the seed is in short supply it might be better to sow it in pots in a cold frame. When they are large enough to handle, prick the seedlings out into individual pots and plant them out in late spring.

Division in spring[13].

Practical Plants is currently lacking information on propagation instructions of Trifolium repens. Help us fill in the blanks! Edit this page to add your knowledge.




Succeeds in a moist, well-drained circum-neutral soil in full sun, preferring a sweet calcareous clay soil. Succeeds in poor soils.

A very important food plant for the caterpillars of many butterfly and moth species[14] it is also a good bee plant[15]. A good companion plant in the lawn, tolerating trampling[16][15], but it dislikes growing with henbane or members of the buttercup family[16]. It grows well in an apple orchard, the trees will produce tastier fruit that stores better[17]. It should not be grown with camellias or gooseberries because it harbours a mite that can cause fruit drop in the gooseberries and premature budding in the camellias[17]. Polymorphic, there are many subspecies and varieties. Some varieties have also been selected for use in lawn mixes[5].

This species has a symbiotic relationship with certain soil bacteria, these bacteria form nodules on the roots and fix atmospheric nitrogen. Some of this nitrogen is utilized by the growing plant but some can also be used by other plants growing nearby[18]. Buttercups growing nearby depress the growth of the nitrogen bacteria by means of a root exudate[17].

Additional information for Demand white clover

 Belongs to the following Article

Nitrogen fixing plant species suited to temperate climate such as North Canterbury New Zealand

Nitrogen fixing plant species suited to temperate climate such as North Canterbury New Zealand

Nitrogen is an essential element for plant growth. Certain plants have a useful ability to capture nitrogen from the atmosphere. This is often achieved through symbiotic relationship with fungi in the root zone. Being able access unlimited nitrogen allows these plants to grow quickly while also making some available to surrounding plants. The practical reality is that including nitrogen fixing plants of various shapes and sizes amongst other productive plantings improves overall health, vigour and fertility,