Fabaceae: Pea Family — Trifolium (Clover): flower heads with involucre
The pea family has 5-petaled flowers, consisting of a wide upper banner petal, two wing petals, plus two lower petals which are fused to form a boat-shaped keel. Many produce heads or spikes, consisting of multiple individual flowers (examples are lupines and clovers). The seed pod is generally a “legume”. This is a long, flattish pod, swollen by the seeds, and splitting lengthwise along both the top and bottom.
Clovers are common, small plants, sometimes with subtle differences. In reading about a clover, remember that the flower head is made up of many small individual flowers. So if a description says that the calyx lobe is longer than the flower, examine the individual flower’s calyx. Identifying clovers is simplified by looking to see if they have an involucre: bracts at the base of the head which are fused to form a cup, bowl or wheel. About 40% of the clovers found in Monterey County have involucres; all of these are native. This page covers the plants with involucres.