(Clovers belong to the genus Trifolium)
White Clover, Trifolium repensThe white item at the top left in the picture at the right is not a clover flower. It is a head of flowers, also known as an inflorescence. Each one of the slender, white things in the head is a flower. The plant is shown at about actual size. The inset at the top right of the picture shows a much magnified image of just one flower in the head.

When we refer to "clovers" we're speaking of members of the genus Trifolium in the Bean Family, the Fabaceae. Around 300 species of Trifolium exist. The one above is a very common citizen of weedy lawns. It's the White Clover, Trifolium repens. Besides the fact that its flowers are white, one feature distinguishing White Clover from many other clover species is that its stem  creeps along the ground issuing roots from the stem as it goes. In the picture you can see white roots dangling from the horizontal stem. Most other clovers are upright or leaning, but not really creeping and rooting along the stem.

Being members of the Bean Family, clover flowers have that special kind of blossom known as the papilionaceous flower, which we discuss on our Bean Flower page. You might be interested in seeing how the above clover blossom is so different from the clover flower on the Bean Flower page, yet its basic structure, with standard, keel and two wings is exactly the same. Both clovers and clover have papilionaceous flowers.

Clover heads at different stages of development

The picture above shows clover heads at different stages of development. At the far left is a young head with its flowers just opening up.

In the middle is a head in which flowers at the top of the head are just opening up, flowers at the middle have recently been pollinated and are beginning to wither, and at the bottom the flowers are brown and faded. This is showing something very interesting that clover flowers do. When they're young, they are bright and are held upward so that visiting pollinators such as small bees can easily see them, land on them and, holding onto the blossoms' wings, take nectar. Then once the flowers have been pollinated there is no reason to remain bright and upright, so they fade and droop. The next pollinator won't waste time trying to pollinate the brown, droopy, already-pollinated flowers, but will concentrate on the younger flowers at the top needing pollination.

At the right in the picture you see a head in which all the flowers have been pollinated. Now the withered corollas and calyxes are just hanging there as the ovaries inside them slowly enlarge and mature into one- or two-seeded legumes. Legumes are simple, dry fruits, as explained on our Simple Dry Fruit page.