Seed
Seedling
Vegetative Growth
Flowering Plant

Wild White Clover (small leaved)

Legume

(Trifolium repens)

White clover is one of the most common legumes in the UK. This species can be recognised by its creeping growth habit. Its creeping stolons help to fill in gaps in the sward, putting down roots at each node. White clover varieties can be categorised into small, medium and large leaf sizes. Generally the smaller the leaf size, the more persistent and prostrate the plant will be, the small leaf type will tolerate closer grazing from sheep and tends to sit lower at the base of the sward, the small and medium leaf varieties are used for grazing mixtures. Using mixtures of white clover varieties helps to ensure that at least one can tolerate and contribute to what ever management regime is being imposed at a given time. The small leaf varieties are the lowest growing and the most prostrate. Due to the low growing point on the plant , they have a good tolerance to cattle and especially sheep grazing. The small leaf varieties are the most persistent perennial clovers. Small leaf varieties are sometimes call 'wild white clover', one of the best known was the Aberystwyth S 184 variety, another was Kent wild white clover, a more modern version of this variety type is called aberace.

Uses

Generally used in long term grazing swards, as a component to fill the very base of the sward due to its prostrate growth habit. Experimental work has also looked as using this very low growing clover as an undersowing to act as a weed suppressor for perennial crops like christmas trees, because it does not compete with the cash crop above. (work carried out in Scandinavia).

Persistence

This is a true perennial clover, lasting for many years.

Strengths

A long lasting species, it is good at building fertility and is drought tolerant.

Frost Tolerance

Winter hardy.

Yield

4t DM per ha.

Sowing Rate Advice

4kg per acre / 10kg per ha.

It is a small seed, so the sowing rates are low.

Mixture Sowing Rate Advice

0.5kg - 1kgs per acre - 1.25 - 2.5kgs per ha.

Small leaf white clover is usually included in grazing mixtures, some mixtures utilise high levels of white clover in a sward to reduce artificial inputs and promote livestock growth and production.

Ideal Sowing Time

Sow in warm soils from May to September.

Management

When clover seed is sown, either as a component of a mixture or a pure stand, the depth of sowing is critical. The seed should be sown no deeper than 10mm, sowing too deeply can reduce the germination and establishment dramatically. Small seeds like clover, prefer a firm seed bed, a loose un-rolled, puffy seedbed can also result in a poor germination. White clover can also been over-sown into an existing grass sward, however guidelines should be followed to get the best result, the competition from the existing sward can reduce the reliability of the over-sowing. In high artificial nitrogen systems, white clover can struggle to persist in the sward.

Distinguishing characteristics

Seed

Seed
White clover seed is significantly smaller in size than red clover seed. It is a smooth, small and rounded seed, with a pale yellow to beige colour. It is approximately 0.5 - 1mm in length.

Seedling

Seedling
White clover seedlings have small, oval shaped cotyledons, they are approximately 3-4mm long by 2-3mm in width, making them slightly longer than they are wide. The seedling and first true leaf is glabrous (free from hair) with a round 1st true leaf, that has a softly serrated margin. The true leaf is situated on a short stalk which is shorter than the cotyledon.

Vegetative State

Flowering Plant

Flowering Plant
The plant is normally a rich green colour. The leaves are trifoliate, varying from heart shaped to elliptical. Each leaf usually has a lighter green crescent shaped area on the upper side of the leaf, and toothed margins. The plant is hairless, with small and sharply pointed stipules. The flower heads are white and produced on the end of a stalk, longer than the leaf stalks, however it has less flower heads and flowers later than other larger white clovers. This species relies more on creeping surface stolons, than a deep taproot. Because of this it has more nodes than other clover species.

Additional Info

Average number of seeds per kg 1 700 000. Average protein content 25-27%. May cause bloat in some situations particularly in cattle.

Works well with

Small leaf white clover is very adaptable, it can be used in mixtures with traditional grasses like meadow fescue and Timothy. It also works well in grazing mixtures with leafy perennial ryegrass, where it fills out the base of the sward. It is normally used with small to medium and medium leaf clover varieties. Occasionally small leaved, prostrate varieties may be combined with yellow trefoil as an undersowing mixture beneath cereal crops.

You can find Wild White Clover (small leaved) in the following mixtures