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Trifolium reflexum is often confused with:
Trifolium pratense Mature plants in bloom
Plants that fill a similar niche:
Viola sororia Viola papilionacea
Viola hastata Viola hastata
Viola striata Viola striata

Buffalo Clover Trifolium reflexum

Previously known as:

  • Trifolium reflexum var. glabrum
Phonetic Spelling
try-FOH-lee-um
Description

Trifolium reflexum or Buffalo Clover is a North Carolina native perennial in the bean family. A rare plant that was once abundant, it has seen a strong decline in the past few decades.  In North Carolina, it has been given a State Threatened status.  On the rare occasions that it is located, it is seldom in large stands.  It tends to become shaded out by taller species as well as declining for no apparent reason.  

Its natural habitat includes open woodlands, woodland edges, and other dry shady locations.  While wildfires may damage some plants, prescribed burning in some locations have stimulated the germination of pre-existing seed banks as well as creating an ideal seedbed for the seeds to establish themselves.  

It is often confused with Trifolium pratense (Alsike Clover). One distinguishing feature is the flower head of Buffalo Clover sits well above the leaves, where the head of Alsike Clover appears to be resting on the leaves.  Also, during and shortly after flowering, the lower portion of the flowers of Buffalo Clover hang downward or droop.  This gives the flowers a two parted cluster, an erect top and a drooping lower half, leading to the botanical identification of reflexum.

Insects, Diseases, and Other Plant Problems:

See this plant in the following landscape:
Cultivars / Varieties:
Tags:
#wildlife plant#native perennial#NC native#native wildflower#larval host plant#food source summer#rare#food source herbage#native#bird friendly#food source hard mast fruit#mammals#butterfly friendly#pollinator garden#audubon#gray hairstreak butterfly#northern cloudywing butterfly#eastern tailed-blue butterfly#clouded sulphur butterfly#orange sulphur butterfly
 
Cultivars / Varieties:
Tags:
#wildlife plant#native perennial#NC native#native wildflower#larval host plant#food source summer#rare#food source herbage#native#bird friendly#food source hard mast fruit#mammals#butterfly friendly#pollinator garden#audubon#gray hairstreak butterfly#northern cloudywing butterfly#eastern tailed-blue butterfly#clouded sulphur butterfly#orange sulphur butterfly
  • Attributes:
    Genus:
    Trifolium
    Species:
    reflexum
    Family:
    Fabaceae
    Life Cycle:
    Annual
    Biennial
    Perennial
    Country Or Region Of Origin:
    Central and eastern U.S.A.
    Distribution:
    AL, AR, DC, FL, GA, IA, IL, IN, KS, KY, LA, MD, MO, MS, NC, NE, OH, OK, PA, SC, TN, TX, VA, WV
    Fire Risk Rating:
    low flammability
    Wildlife Value:
    This plant supports Clouded Sulphur (Colias philodice) larvae which appear from May to October in the North and from March to November in the South. There are 3 flights in the North and 4 to 5 flights in the South. Adult Clouded Sulfur butterflies feed on flower nectar from many different plants. This plant also supports Eastern Tailed-Blue (Everes comyntas) which has many broods from February-November, Orange Sulphur (Colias eurytheme), Gray Hairstreak (Strymon melinus), and Northern Cloudywing (Thorybes pylades) larvae which broods a little earlier than May-July.
    Play Value:
    Attracts Pollinators
    Wildlife Larval Host
  • Whole Plant Traits:
    Plant Type:
    Native Plant
    Perennial
    Woody Plant Leaf Characteristics:
    Deciduous
    Habit/Form:
    Ascending
    Erect
    Growth Rate:
    Slow
    Maintenance:
    Medium
    Texture:
    Medium
  • Cultural Conditions:
    Light:
    Full sun (6 or more hours of direct sunlight a day)
    Partial Shade (Direct sunlight only part of the day, 2-6 hours)
    Soil Texture:
    Sand
    Soil pH:
    Acid (<6.0)
    Soil Drainage:
    Good Drainage
    Occasionally Dry
    Available Space To Plant:
    Less than 12 inches
    NC Region:
    Coastal
    Piedmont
    USDA Plant Hardiness Zone:
    5a, 5b, 6b, 6a, 7b, 7a, 8b, 8a, 9a, 9b, 10b, 10a
  • Fruit:
    Display/Harvest Time:
    Summer
    Fruit Type:
    Legume
    Fruit Length:
    < 1 inch
    Fruit Width:
    < 1 inch
    Fruit Description:
    Fruits display from May to July. They are ovoid to oblong-obovoid with minute stalks. Each contain 2 to 4 seeds.
  • Flowers:
    Flower Color:
    Red/Burgundy
    White
    Flower Inflorescence:
    Head
    Umbel
    Flower Bloom Time:
    Spring
    Summer
    Flower Size:
    1-3 inches
    Flower Description:
    Red and white flowers petal on each flower. The flower is up to 1.25" across and bloom from April to May. The keel petal is red, while the wing petals are white. This gives the flower a pinkish look.
  • Leaves:
    Woody Plant Leaf Characteristics:
    Deciduous
    Leaf Color:
    Green
    Leaf Feel:
    Smooth
    Leaf Type:
    Compound (Pinnately , Bipinnately, Palmately)
    Leaf Arrangement:
    Alternate
    Leaf Shape:
    Elliptical
    Leaf Margin:
    Entire
    Serrate
    Hairs Present:
    Yes
    Leaf Length:
    1-3 inches
    Leaf Width:
    < 1 inch
    Leaf Description:
    The leaves are attached to the stem by long petioles, up to 2" long. The 3 leaflets are elliptical and have rounded tips.
  • Stem:
    Stem Color:
    Green
    Purple/Lavender
    Stem Is Aromatic:
    No
    Stem Surface:
    Smooth (glabrous)
    Stem Description:
    The stems are typically ascending and do not root at the lower nodes. They may have a few branches, but generally are unbranched towards the base. In strong sun the stem will have a purplish color. Mostly glabrous, but may have dense short hairs.
  • Landscape:
    Landscape Location:
    Meadow
    Naturalized Area
    Woodland
    Landscape Theme:
    Butterfly Garden
    Native Garden
    Pollinator Garden
    Design Feature:
    Border
    Mass Planting
    Attracts:
    Butterflies
    Pollinators
    Small Mammals
    Songbirds