Weeds That Look Like Clover

Clover is one of the best plants in a garden as they improve overall health and appearance. Clover plants are nitrogen-fixing plants that help to regulate the amount of moisture in the soil. They are also known to limit the growth of certain weeds keeping lawns healthier and better.

However, many weeds look like clover and this mimicry can go undetected for long periods. These clover look-alikes can be harmful to the general health of the lawn. Some of the weeds can be harmful if consumed by pets or kids. The most popular weeds that look like clover include oxalis, black medic, Lespedeza, and the Alsike Clover.

Major weeds that look like clover

Clover is a very desirable plant in lawns as it improves the general health of the grass by fixing nitrogen and regulating soil water. However, there are many plants that mimic the clover but can be dangerous to the health of the lawn. Major weeds that look like clover include;

1. Oxalis (Wood Sorrel)

Oxalis (Wood Sorrel)
  • Identification; oxalis leaf resembles more of a heart shape than the oval shape of a clover leaf. They sometimes have yellow flowers in summer.
  • Prevention; keep the lawn dense and watered as oxalis usually grows in open, short, and dry patches of the lawn.
  • The best method of eradication; is the use of general broadleaf herbicide

The oxalis plant also known as wood sorrel is the most popular clover look-alike weed. This oxalis plant is a well-sourced plant for local medicines and herbalists due to its health benefits but can be a nuisance to many lawn owners. Oxalis is an annual plant and often blooms in the spring alongside other lawn plants.

This clover lookalike can be spotted on closer inspection due to its heart-shaped leaf that grows on a stalk and the bright yellow flowers that usually bloom in the summer. Oxalis is a bulb-generated plant that makes it harder to get rid of by just simply weeding. Oxalis plants usually grow in short and dry patches of lawn. To prevent the oxalis weed, make sure not to crop the lawn too short in dry seasons.

Because the oxalis plant has an underground bulb, pulling the weed simply means it will grow back again. This makes it hard for many lawn owners to get rid of this clover look-alike. However, using a general broadleaf herbicide is the best way to eradicate it. The general broadleaf herbicide is best applied thoroughly to oxalis seedlings and young plants (before the flowering stage).

2. Medicago lupulina (Black Medic)

  • Identification; the black medic seedlings greatly resemble the clover, however, the mature plant is trifoliate with three oval leaflets. The plant also has small bright yellow flowers when it blooms similar to the oxalis plant.
  • Prevention; regular mowing of lawns, proper irrigation for moisture, and use of fertilizers to boost the lawn plants can prevent black medics from invading a lawn.
  • The best method of eradication; is hand plucking for younger plants and a general broadleaf herbicide for mature plants is very effective.

The black medic is one of the weeds that resembles clover. It is also known by its scientific name ‘medicago lupulina’. This plant is native to Europe but can be commonly found in the United States, South Canada, and the temperate parts of Asia. The black medic is an annual plant although some plants can adapt into perennials.

The black medic weed is usually found in dry areas with lots of sun like roadsides etc. Black medics in a lawn indicate that the lawn is lacking nitrogen and needs better fertilizer.

However, black medics can cause a big nuisance in many lawns and gardens due to their fast invasion. Eradicating black medics can get harder if not noticed on time as the plant spreads easily.

Black medics produce yellow flowers with seeds that are easily dispersed by wind. This means that if the black medic in your lawn blooms, it might be harder to completely eradicate it as the seeds will have been spread around the garden.

3. Lespedeza (Japanese Clover)

  • Identification; the japanese clover has three oblong leaves in a group that resembles the clover plant. The Japanese clover also has pink to purple flowers when in bloom.
  • Prevention; regular mowing of lawns, proper irrigation for moisture, and use of fertilizers to boost the lawn plants can prevent black medics from invading a lawn.
  • The best method of eradication; is hand plucking of the weed in moist soil is very effective. However, general broadleaf herbicides can also be used for weed invasion.

The Japanese clover plant is one of the lookalike weeds of clover. Also known by its scientific name ‘lespedeza’, the plant is an annual plant that can invade any garden type. The Japanese clover is one of the hardest weeds that resembles clover to eradicate.

They usually grow in dry, thin, under-fertilized lawns with poor soils and kill healthy plants to survive. The Japanese clover also grows very close to the ground and can avoid inspection at first glance giving the weed enough time to invade the lawn before its discovery.

The Japanese clover can be prevented by keeping the lawn well irrigated, and applying fertilizer regularly. Regular inspection of lawns will also ensure that the weed is eradicated before it invades the lawns. Hand plucking of Japanese clover is effective when in small numbers however, herbicides can be used when dealing with a weed invasion.

4. Trifolium hybridum (Alsike Clover)

Trifolium hybridum (Alsike Clover)
  • Identification; they are trifoliate and are distinguished from regular clovers by the pale pink or white flower heads that grow from their leaf axils.
  • Prevention; proper drainage and reducing the acidity of the soil
  • The best method of eradication; is hand plucking, mulching, using herbicides, using cornmeal gluten

The alsike clover is a weed that resembles the clover plant. Also known as Trifolium hybridum, the weed is a member of the regular clover’s family although they have vastly different properties. The alsike clover is native to Europe and Asia.

The alsike plant is not safe to ingest for both humans and animals. The pollen of the weed is known to cause allergic reactions in humans even without consumption. In animals, alsike clover is also known to cause photosensitivity and liver disease. Grazing animals like horses and cattle are greatly affected.

Due to the toxicity of the plant to animals, lawn owners with pets need to ensure that they prevent continued exposure to the plant as it can cause serious issues for the animal, especially after an extended period of consumption.

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