Poverty Clover

Last April Leonard and I spent some time at Lower Table Rock in the Rogue Valley near Medford Oregon. Along with Upper Table Rock, these geological features are thought to be remnants of a lava flow into the Rogue River bed about seven million years ago. This lava flow was from a volcanic eruption near Lost Creek Lake. The Table Rocks resemble horseshoe shaped mesas and contain several different habitats and plant communities. The next several posts will feature wildflowers from the Lower Table Rock.

Poverty clover (Trifolium depauperatum) is a member of the Pea Family. This annual inhabits coastal prairie, mixed evergreen forest, valley grassland and wetland riperian habitats. It is native to British Columbia, Washington, Oregon and California as well as areas of Western South America including Peru and Chile. Two states, Michigan and South Carolina, have naturalized populations. There are several varieties of T depauperatum.

Poverty clover has a decumbent to erect stem terminating in an inflorescence composed of less than ten pinkish purple flowers. The corolla (banner petal) inflates as the plant matures and resembles a cow udder. The tip of the corolla is white. There are tiny vestigial involucre at the top of the peduncle.

The leaves of poverty clover are palmately compound with three oval leaflets. The leaflets are entire or toothed. The lower cauline leaves have oblong stipules while the upper leaves  have bristle-tipped stipules.

Poverty clover fruits are plump pods enclosed in the corolla with the long style remaining.

Other common names for T depauperatum are balloon clover and cowbag clover. The scientific name derives from Latin. The genus name refers to the three-lobed leaves while the species name means “starved” or “dwarf”.

The Chinese pagoda on Lower Table Rock will be the next post.




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