Alsike Clover

Percy Folkard, BC FLNR
Scientific name: 

Trifolium hybridium L.

Agronomic Legume
Annual precip. min (mm): 
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Seed size: 
Seeds per kg: 
PR Suitability note: 
Alsike clover is highly suited to the Peace Region.
Key considerations: 
Grazing livestock must be monitored for photosensitization and clover poisoning, especially horses and for bloat, especially with cattle. May not be suitable for pasture for these reasons especially if seeded in a pure stand. Can be difficult to cure for hay.
General Description: 

Alsike clover is a fast-growing, short-lived perennial clover, intermediate between white and red clover. Most commonly, diploid varieties are grown in Western Canada, but there are also tetraploid types (double the number of chromosomes with taller plants, larger leaves, and flowers).

The plant has semi-erect, slender, weak stems that grow to 60 cm (24 in.). These stems are indeterminate and may become quite long. Both the stems and leaf are hairless. The leaflets are finely toothed with 3 attached at a single point. It can often be distinguished from other clovers by the lack of the water mark (very prominent on leaves of red clover) and the character of the leaf and flower attachment to the stems.

Alsike clover has well-developed crowns and non-creeping taproots. It has compact flower heads that form at leaf axils that are pink to white. Alsike produces oblong pods with 2 to 4 small green, yellow, or black seeds per pod.

Native to northern Europe, and cultivated in Sweden in the mid-1700s.
Habitat and climate: 
Alsike clover needs adequate growing season moisture, and moderate summer temperatures. These conditions limit alsike clover to irrigated areas or moist microsites at low elevations in southern British Columbia.
Used for hay, silage, pasture, and greenmanure. Used for site rehabilitation and soil improvement in forestry contexts and in areas with moist, acidic soils.
Optimal time of grazing use: 
Good tolerance to frequent, close grazing, but poor tolerance to animal traffic. Optimal grazing ideally follows the growth of a full canopy of leaves. Requires rest periods of 4 weeks or more. Should not be grazed in the last 6 weeks of the growing season.
Recovery after use (rating): 
Recovery after use: 
Rest or regrowth period of 4 weeks or more is recommended.
Forage yield (rating): 
Forage yield: 
Yields are lower than alfalfa or red clover. Quality of forage is good, and longer lasting than red clover.
Palatability/Nutritional Value: 
Very palatable, but can cause bloat, especially in vegetative stages. The risk to cause bloat in grazing livestock is lower than alfalfa and similar to red clover. Can cause photosensitization and clover poisoning in cattle, sheep, and especially horses, a common problem in the Peace Region.
Longevity (rating): 
Not long lived (2 to 3 years).
Persistence (rating): 
Well adapted to cool, moist areas of northern or high altitude areas. With crown survival or seed set, can be persistent.
Competitiveness (rating): 
Vigorous and grows well with less competitive grasses, such as timothy.
Erosion control (rating): 
Drought tolerance (rating): 
Winter hardiness (rating): 
Winter hardiness: 
Alsike is winter hardy but if crowns are damaged it can winterkill.
Soil texture preference (rating): 
Soil texture preference: 
Alsike does especially well on moist claysoils, and it can do well on both peaty (organic) and inorganic soils.
Flooding tolerance (rating): 
Flooding tolerance: 
Can tolerate flooding for several days, and can grow in excess moisture conditions or on soils with poor drainage.
Salinity tolerance (rating): 
Acidity tolerance (rating): 
Acidity tolerance : 
Tolerates acidity as low as pH 5.0 and tolerates high alkaline soils as well.
Shade tolerance: 
Fairly good shade tolerance
Fire tolerance (rating): 
Pests and/or disease threats: 
Casebearers, clover seed weevils, kesser clover seed weevils, clover root curculio, grasshoppers, leaf hoppers.
Ease of establishment (rating): 
Ease of establishment: 
Easy to establish but must be seeded shallow. Minimal land preparation required. Volunteer establishment can occur.
Suggested mixtures: 
Can be mixed with less competitive grasses such as timothy.
Management considerations: 
Grazing livestock must be monitored for photosensitization and clover poisoning, especially horses and for bloat, especially with cattle. Inoculate with Rhizobium trifolii for best nodulation and nitrogen fixing.