Trifolium mattirolianum

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Finely toothed trifoliolate leaves, with developing and fully formed inflorescences.

Leaves, inflorescences, and seeds.

Floriferous annual.

Creeping, decumbent annual.

Tending prostrate with early growth.

Ascendent stems.

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Scientific name

Trifolium mattirolianum  Chiov.




Family: Fabaceae (alt. Leguminosae) subfamily: Faboideae tribe: Trifolieae. Also placed in: Papilionaceae.

Common names


Morphological description

Annual up to 30 cm tall, erect or decumbent, branching all along deeply grooved stems, glabrous.  Leaflets obovate, up to 16 x 14 mm, usually truncate or emarginate at the apex;  margins finely spiny-toothed and veins prominent.  Petiole up to 50 mm long, in upper leaves much shorter.  Stipules with acuminate tips usually united to leaf stalks for about half of length, margins smooth or ragged.  Inflorescences 10-20 mm diameter, globose, many-flowered.  Pedicels about 0.5 mm long; peduncle long, glabrous.  Calyx glabrous, 11-nerved, becoming somewhat inflated and constricted at the throat; lobes abruptly narrowed near the base, subulate, 2-6 mm long.  Corolla purple or rarely white, 7-10 mm long;  standard longer than the wings and keel.  Pods about 3 mm long, enclosed in calyx tube, 1-2 seeded and not dehiscent .  Seeds oval, brown and usually up to 1.5 x 2 mm.


Native to:
East Africa:  Ethiopia.
Found in grasslands and upland rocky areas and as weed in crop land.


Regarded as a good legume for grazing in native pastures with potential for use as an annual legume for pasture improvement in high altitude areas.  An excellent species for bee keeping and honey production.


Soil requirements

Adapted to a wide range of soils from heavy clay vertisols and nitosols to loams and sandy loams from pH 4.0-7.0.  Tolerates seasonal waterlogging .  It can also be used on shallow soils or stoney fields due to its strong roots.


Adapted to high rainfall areas but can also be grown successfully in drier areas.  Rainfall in its natural range varies from 1,100-2,000 mm/yr.


Adapted to the cool frost-free tropical highlands, T. mattirolianum occurs from 1,300-2,700 m in its native area.  Genotypes can be selected which are better adapted to warmer areas.  Ground temperatures below 7ºC during the growing season retard growth, and an elevation of about 2,600 m is about the upper limit for good forage production in tropical areas.


No information available.

Reproductive development

Flowering occurs from 94-140 days after planting in areas close to the equator with approximately 12-hour days.  This is usually close to the end of the rains and seeds mature during the dry season.


Clovers tolerate moderate to high grazing.  Grazing late in the season reduces seed heads leading to reduced regeneration in following year.  They respond well to defoliation and compete better with grasses when mown to about 5-10 cm.


No information available.


Guidelines for the establishment and management of sown pastures.


Clovers are usually sown from seed at rates of 1-2 kg/ha.  Seeds are hard and require scarification before planting to ensure uniform germination.  Seeds are small and seedbeds should be well prepared to a fine, firm tilth.  Seeds are best sown just below the surface, lightly covered and rolled.  Germination occurs in about 5-7 days and young seedlings can be observed about 2 weeks after planting.  African Trifolium species are highly specialised in their rhizobium requirements. In its native habitat it nodulates readily with native rhizobia and nitrogen fertiliser is not required.


No information available.

Compatibility (with other species)

T. mattirolianum combines well with other annual clovers and short-growing grasses.

Companion species

Grasses:  Pennisetum clandestinum , P. schimperi, Cynodon dactylon .
Legumes:   Neonotonia wightii , Pisum sativum.

Pests and diseases

Under cool damp conditions, seedlings are sensitive to damping-off disease from the soil-borne fungi Pythium spp., resulting in rapid seedling death.  Plants are susceptible to red spider mites when grown in the greenhouse or shade areas.

Ability to spread

Plants dry and die back after seed set but hard seeds may be dispersed by water and small animals and remain in the soil for several years allowing pastures to regrow annually.

Weed potential

This species is intensively grazed, reducing seed set and dispersal.

Feeding value

Nutritive value

Clovers contain from 60-80% (weight/weight) digestible dry matter and 20% protein.


Very palatable species.


No information available.

Production potential

Dry matter

No information available.

Animal production

Forage is beneficial for dairy and beef cattle and for horses, but care should be taken not to use as a sole diet to avoid bloat.


2n = 16.

Seed production

At least 1,000 mm rainfall is needed for good flowering and seed production.  Plants flower at the end of the rains and are allogamous, setting seed only by cross-pollination .  They are pollinated by bees, which visit the flowers for pollen and nectar.  T. mattirolianum is a moderate seed producer with yields of around 400 kg/ha. Seeds are hard-seeded and store well.

Herbicide effects

No information available.



Other comments


Selected references

Gillet, J.M. and Taylor, N.L. (2001) The World of Clovers . Iowa State University Press.
Wilson, G.P.M and Bowman, A.M. (1993) Trifolium species on the New South Wales north coast: 2. African species. Genetic Resources Communication, No. 19 .

Internet links




Country/date released


None released to date.      

Promising accessions

Promising accessions



None reported.