Fabaceae: Pea Family — Trifolium (Clover) : Heads with an 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 genera have flowers in heads or spikes, comprising many 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 a description of a clover, it is important to 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, it is the individual flower one must examine, not the whole head. 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; interestingly all of these are native. This page covers the plants with involucres.