Helmet Clover

Helmet Clover / Trifolium clypeatum / نفل مدرع

Picture Resource: Greece, Stridvall L. & A.: Plant Galleries 

Status: Common

This plant species is also known as Helmet clover or Shield clover and belongs to the leguminous botanical family Fabaceae. Trifolium clypeatum is an annual herbaceous plant with many small flowers in heads that form a uniform carpet-like flowering. Despite the genus Trifolium has a cosmopolitan distribution, the species T. clypeatum is distributed throughout Eastern Mediterranean region, from Greece to Palestine and wider area.

The Helmet clover is a large, showy, pink or white flowered clover that blooms from January to May. It can reach up to 50 cm height, with large leaves and broad toothed leaflets. The stems are very hairy and branched. The flower heads are solitary, egg-shaped with flowers that are up to 3 cm long and up to 2,5 cm wide. Each flower has five petals: a banner, two keels and two wings. The upper petal (banner) of the corolla is egg-shaped to oval and truncated or slightly notched. This complex flower shape is typical for the family Fabaceae.

The sepals of the calyx consist of five light green leafy lobes, with the lowest lobe much longer than the rest. The calyx is green and in the lower part tubular, with a distinct nerve. The leaves are alternate, compound and trifoliate (hence the name “Trifolium”, that means “three leaves”). The upper leaves are prickly and the leaf nerves are clearly visible. The fruits are pods, up to 4 mm long and one fruit per flower. The seeds are brown, around 3 mm long and have a wedge or lenticular shape. The Helmet clover grows in hills, grassy places, fields and roadsides, but normally it will seek out moist soil and shaded places. Interestingly, since this plant produces many flowers in each inflorescence, it is considered one major nectar source for bees, e.g. for the species Anthophora plumipes, in Palestine.

Other names: Shield clover.

IUCN red list status: not evaluated

Local status: least concern