[Clovers: The Genus Trifolium East of the Cascade Mts. of Oregon and Washington]

Big-head Clover, Big-headed Clover, Large-head Clover

Trifolium macrocephalum

Synonyms: Lupinaster macrocephalus, Trifolium macrocephalum var. caeruleomontanum

Big-head Clover, Big-headed Clover, Large-head Clover: Trifolium macrocephalum (Synonyms: Lupinaster macrocephalus, Trifolium macrocephalum var. caeruleomontanum) - Big-head Clover, Big-headed Clover, Large-head Clover: Trifolium macrocephalum (Synonyms: Lupinaster macrocephalus, Trifolium macrocephalum var. caeruleomontanum)
The photo at left shows big-head clover as seen along Cowiche Mill Road several miles west of Yakima, WA.........March 28, 2007. Note that the palmately compound leaves leaves have more than the typical 3 leaflets of most other clovers. The photo at right shows a late-blooming big-head clover in scablands at Brooks Memorial State Park, Klickitat County, WA.....May 4, 2021.

Characteristics:

Big-head clover is a very attractive perennial wildflower in terms of both is large, striped leaves and large, showy inflorescence. Several stems arise 10-30 cm high from a thick, tough root and spreading rhizomes. The distinct leaves are palmately compound with 5-9 leaflets that are oblanceolate to obcordate in outline. The thick, leathery leaflets are noticeably ribbed due to the pinnately spreading veins and have serrate margins, the teeth being small and thin. A lighter colored stripe runs across the middle of the leaflet blade (as seen in photos on this page) which measures 12-25 mm long. The stipules are broad, leaf-like and deeply cleft or toothed.

A single, dense head of flowers measuring up to 5 cm wide and long is found atop each stem. The heads lack a subtending involucre and are very showy. Individual flowers measure 22-28 mm long and are pinkish to rose-pink with white banner. The pedicels are very short. The calyx is about 2/3 the length of the corolla and is tipped by long, thin calyx teeth that are several times longer than the calyx tube and are ringed with many fringing hairs. The small pods are typically 1-4 seeded.


Habitat:

Big-head clover may be found on rocky or shallow soils in grasslands, amongst sagebrush or in open ponderosa pione woodlands.


Range:

Big-head clover may be found wholly east of the Cascade Mts. from southcentral Washington to central Oregon and eastward to western Idaho and Nevada.


Flower and calyx of Big-head Clover, Big-headed Clover, Large-head Clover: Trifolium macrocephalum (Synonyms: Lupinaster macrocephalus, Trifolium macrocephalum var. caeruleomontanum)

The photo above shows a close-up of the flower of bighead clover as seen along the Hells Canyon Rim Road in Hells Canyon NRA..........June 28, 2008. Note the long wing petals, which are longer than the pink keel. Note also the very long, narrow and hairy calyx lobes.

Flower head of Big-head Clover, Big-headed Clover, Large-head Clover: Trifolium macrocephalum (Synonyms: Lupinaster macrocephalus, Trifolium macrocephalum var. caeruleomontanum)m

The photo above shows western groundsel as seen along the Hells Canyon Rim Road in Hells Canyon NRA.........June 28, 2008.

Big-head Clover, Big-headed Clover, Large-head Clover: Trifolium macrocephalum (Synonyms: Lupinaster macrocephalus, Trifolium macrocephalum var. caeruleomontanum)

The photo above shows big-head clover as seen along Cowiche Mill Road several miles west of Yakima, WA...........March 28, 2007.

Big-head Clover, Big-headed Clover, Large-head Clover: Trifolium macrocephalum (Synonyms: Lupinaster macrocephalus, Trifolium macrocephalum var. caeruleomontanum) - Big-head Clover, Big-headed Clover, Large-head Clover: Trifolium macrocephalum (Synonyms: Lupinaster macrocephalus, Trifolium macrocephalum var. caeruleomontanum)

Big-head clover as seen in scablands near the junction of FS Roads #42 and #300, Ochoco National Forest and adjacent BLM lands..........April 30, 2016.

Big-head Clover, Big-headed Clover, Large-head Clover: Trifolium macrocephalum (Synonyms: Lupinaster macrocephalus, Trifolium macrocephalum var. caeruleomontanum)

Big-head clover from rocky meadows at the junction of FS Roads #42 and #3010 at the southeastern corner of Big Summit Prairie, Ochoco National Forest..........April 29, 2016.

Big-head Clover, Big-headed Clover, Large-head Clover: Trifolium macrocephalum (Synonyms: Lupinaster macrocephalus, Trifolium macrocephalum var. caeruleomontanum) - Big-head Clover, Big-headed Clover, Large-head Clover: Trifolium macrocephalum (Synonyms: Lupinaster macrocephalus, Trifolium macrocephalum var. caeruleomontanum)

Big-head clover blooming along the Round Mountain South Trail #805 near the summit of Round Mt., Ochoco National Forest.........May 28, 2016.

Big-head Clover, Big-headed Clover, Large-head Clover: Trifolium macrocephalum (Synonyms: Lupinaster macrocephalus, Trifolium macrocephalum var. caeruleomontanum) - Big-head Clover, Big-headed Clover, Large-head Clover: Trifolium macrocephalum (Synonyms: Lupinaster macrocephalus, Trifolium macrocephalum var. caeruleomontanum) - Big-head Clover, Big-headed Clover, Large-head Clover: Trifolium macrocephalum (Synonyms: Lupinaster macrocephalus, Trifolium macrocephalum var. caeruleomontanum)

Big-head clover (left and center) from rocky meadows alongside Cold Springs Road in the northern Wallowa-Whitman National Forest..........June 26, 2008. The photo at right shows bighead clover blooming amongst Tolmie's onion (Allium tolmiei) in scablands at the northeast corner of the junction of Forest Roads 42 and 30 at the southeast corner of Big Summit Prairie, Ochoco National Forest.........May 10, 2017..

Big-head Clover, Big-headed Clover, Large-head Clover: Trifolium macrocephalum (Synonyms: Lupinaster macrocephalus, Trifolium macrocephalum var. caeruleomontanum) - Big-head Clover, Big-headed Clover, Large-head Clover: Trifolium macrocephalum (Synonyms: Lupinaster macrocephalus, Trifolium macrocephalum var. caeruleomontanum)

Bighead clover blooming (left) on scablands at the eastern edge of Big Summit Prairie near the old Cold Springs Guard Station, Ochoco National Forest.........May 10, 2017. The photo at right shows bighead clover on scablands between Forest Road 4040 and the North Fork Crooked River Wild and Scenic River........May 11, 2017.

Big-head Clover, Big-headed Clover, Large-head Clover: Trifolium macrocephalum (Synonyms: Lupinaster macrocephalus, Trifolium macrocephalum var. caeruleomontanum) - Big-head Clover, Big-headed Clover, Large-head Clover: Trifolium macrocephalum (Synonyms: Lupinaster macrocephalus, Trifolium macrocephalum var. caeruleomontanum)

Bighead clover blooming at left along Forest Road #3965 to the Hells Canyon Overlook, Hells Canyon National Recreation Area......June 11, 2018. The photo at right shows bighead clover in bloom along What Road north of Cleman Mountain near the DNR-Wenatchee National Forest boundary, Yakima County, WA......May 24, 2019.

Paul Slichter