Trifolium quartinianum

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Flowers, and immature pods (inset).

Pods and seeds.

A spreading annual.

Spreading prostrate stems.

Spreading prostrate stems.

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Scientific name

Trifolium quartinianum A. Rich.




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

Common names

Quartin's clover.

Morphological description

Annual sub-glabrous herb up to 60 cm tall with stout, erect or spreading, grooved and branched stems.  Leaflets narrowly oblong, up to 52 x 16 mm with fine teeth.  Petioles up to 40 mm long on lower leaves.  Stipules 10-20 mm long with narrowly triangular tips.  Inflorescences about 20 mm in diameter and globose, long-pedunculate, bracts several-nerved forming an involucre, outer bracts ovate, lobed or toothed, up to 7 mm long.  Calyx about 40-nerved, lobes 4-7 mm long, ovate and overlapping at the base, drawn out into subulate points.  Corolla purplish red, rarely white, 11-12 mm long.  Pods about 4 mm long and 4-5 seeded.  Seeds oval, brown and usually 1.5 x 1 mm.


Native to:
East Africa :  Eritrea, Ethiopia, Uganda
Found in upland grasslands, especially in seasonally waterlogged areas.


Regarded as a good legume for grazing in native pastures with potential for use as an annual legume for pasture improvement.  It can also be used for hay and silage.  Used for intercropping with wheat or barley in tropical highlands to improve soil nitrogen and quality of residues for livestock feed.  This species is also suitable for cut and carry as plants are tall and produce much biomass.  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 4.0-8.0, it grows particularly well on acid soils.  Tolerates seasonal waterlogging .


Adapted to high rainfall areas but can also tolerate drier conditions.
Rainfall in its natural range varies from 800-1,900 mm/yr.


Adapted to the cool frost-free tropical highlands, T. quartinianum occurs from 1,500-2,600 m in its native area.  Ground temperatures below 7ºC during the growing season retards 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 65-100 days after planting in areas close to the equator with approximately 12-hour days.  Flowers are large and produce nectar to attract bees for pollination .


Clovers tolerate moderate to high grazing.  Grazing in the late season reduces seed heads leading to reduced regeneration in following years. 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.  Although African Trifolium species are highly specialised in their rhizobium requirements, T. quartinianum can nodulate with several strains.  Application of P at about 30 kg/ha significantly increases the number of nodules.  In its native habitat it nodulates readily with native rhizobia, fixing the equivalent of 80-120 kg/ha N and nitrogen fertiliser is not required.


Large dry matter yield increases are seen in response to P application of 30 kg/ha on poorer soils.  Fertiliser (DAP) is recommended when grown on low fertility soils at an optimum rate of 25-30 kg/ha P.

Compatibility (with other species)

T. quartinianum combines well with other annual clovers and short-growing grasses.  It has been successfully used for intercropping with wheat without significant reduction of wheat grain and straw yields.

Companion species

Grasses:  Pennisetum thunbergii, Cynodon dactylon , Setaria sphacelata.
Legumes:  Trifolium decorum , T. rueppellianum , T. steudneri , T. tembense .

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.  Substantial seed reserves were found in the top 5 cm of soil after 4 years of fallow in Ethiopia.

Weed potential

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

Feeding value

Nutritive value

Clovers should be cut and fed before flowering after which quality declines as leaf drop occurs.  Green leaf contains from 60-80% (weight/weight) digestible dry matter and up to 24% protein.


This species is very palatable.


No information available.

Production potential

Dry matter

This is one of the most productive of the native Ethiopian clovers with vigorous, large leafed, tall plants.  It is a fast growing annual that can produce good yields within 3 months.  At least 1,000 mm rainfall is needed for high forage production.  Yields are variable and are dependent on soil temperature, rainfall , fertility and genotype.  Although moderate yields of 3-4 t/ha are common, yields can reach up to 7 t/ha with application of 40 kg/ha P.

Animal production

No information available.


2n = 16.

Seed production

At least 1,300 mm rainfall is needed for good flowering and seed production.  Plants flower at the end of the rains and are insect pollinated. T. quartinianum is a good seed producer and seed yields are usually in the range of 600 kg/ha but can reach up to 800-900 kg/ha with application of 35 kg/ha P.  Seeds are hard-seeded and store well.

Herbicide effects

No information available.



Other comments


Selected references

Akundabweni, L. and Njuguna, S.K. (1996) Seed production of native hay clovers in the highlands of eastern Africa. Tropical Grasslands, 30, 257-261.
Gillet, J.M. and Taylor, N.L. (2001) The World of Clovers . Iowa State University Press.
Kahurananga, J. and Asres Tsehay (1991) Variarion in flowering time, dry matter and seed yield among annual Trifolium species, Ethiopia.  Tropical Grasslands, 25, 20-25.

Internet links




Country/date released


None released to date.          

Promising accessions

Promising accessions



ILRI 6301 Ethiopia Early maturing ecotype with mean yield of over 7 t/ha.