Lesser trefoil (Trifolium dubium)

By | 06/06/2012
Lesser Trefoil Plants

Lesser Trefoil (Trifolium dubium) is an attractive little lawn weed which is reasonably common on a lot of untreated lawns in England.

Some folk call it suckling clover or Irish Shamrock. It is a member of the clover family. A relative to peas and beans. It is also related to the herbaceous perennial white clover (Trifolium repens), but trefoil is generally easier to control.

It is an annual weed, similar to Bittercress and Common Chickweed. meaning that it will die each year and the next generation relies on seeding from the previous year. This is an advantage in the control of the weed as just stopping it from seeding will help to prevent it from coming back in subsequent years.

It has three leaflets which are on short stalks. It can be distinguished from similar weeds like Black Medic (Medicago lupulina) (which has leaves which taper to a point) and White Clover (Trifolium repens), which doesn’t have leaf stalks.

Lesser Trefoil leaves
The leaves of a Lesser Trefoil plant

Lesser trefoil is a species of clover

Lesser trefoil usually emerges between June and October, with odd seedlings appearing at any time of year. It prefers less acidic soils and can spread through a lawn very quickly, suffocating the grass. It also has a very low-growing habit which avoids the mower blades!

Trefoil produces a large number of small flowers, about 5mm in width. These flowers self-pollinate. These are very noticeable as a single plant can produce a large number of flowers. Seeds are produced about a month later. Once distributed in the soil, lay dormant for many years.

Lesser Trefoil is easily controlled in lawns. A regular lawn treatment will take care of any infestation in a lawn.

If you have a problem with Lesser Trefoil in your lawn, then get in touch and I will be happy to advise.

Kris Lord

6 thoughts on “Lesser trefoil (Trifolium dubium)

  1. Frederick Mew

    We have trefoil badly on our lawn. Please advice me on which killer to use.
    Many thanks.

    1. Kris Lord Post author

      Any selective lawn weed killer should tackle trefoil. Is it not a difficult weed to keep on top of. It sets seed a lot though, so it can pop up all over the place quickly.

  2. trevor palay

    need to get rid of lesser trefoil ‘patches’ that return every year…what weedkiller do i use…note i generally go around my lawn and hand pick it out but wanting something easier if possible..
    Thank you Trevor

    1. Kris Lord Post author

      Hi Trevor,
      Trefoil is not a difficult weed to control. All selective lawn weedkillers should keep it in check.
      It is an annual weed, so keeping it from flowering will also reduce the re-emergence next year.
      Thanks for reading.

  3. Gillian Barfield

    I have lesser trefoil in my garden but I also do other in the area 2 very old ladies and one man who cannot get about I am retired also

    Can this weed spread via mower?

    Other people in the road have it and in paths and drives, how does it spread

    Trying kill it off with Verdone Extra but as one lot goes another area get it??

    Many thanks

    1. Kris Lord Post author

      Hi Gillian,
      Yes, lesser trefoil can spread via the mower and self-seeds very readily.
      Contact your local lawn care service for the most effective control.
      Thanks for reading!


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