SEARCH AND WILDFLOWER HOME PAGE     PINK/RED/ORANGE FLOWERS     CONTACT US



   The three Trifoliums shown on this page are found in open alpine meadows from about 11,500 feet elevation to 13,000 feet. Trifolium attenuatum and Trifolium dasyphyllum grow to five or six inches tall and have long flower stems with multiple flowers in the head; Trifolium nanum is but an inch or so high and flowers are single, barely above the matted leaves. Although all three plants are low to the ground and have small flowers, they are quite visible because they grow in widely spreading mats -- T. attenuatum and T. dasyphyllum to over several feet in diameter, T. nanum to half that.

   T. attenuatum is found only in a few counties of New Mexico and Colorado.  T. dasyphyllum and T. nanum are more widespread, ranging from New Mexico to Montana.

   Linnaeus named the Trifolium genus in 1753.

   Click for more Trifolium.

Trifolium attenuatum
Trifolium attenuatum (Rocky Mountain Trifolium)
Fabaceae (Pea Family)

Subalpine, alpine. Openings. Summer.
Lizard Head Trail, July 2, 2004.

Trifolium attenuatum grows in eye-catching mats, often many feet in diameter but usually just a few inches high.  Clustered flowers top a leafless stem that often droops.   Leaves often fold inward along the long axis and are a dusky, light green.  (Look at the far left side of the photograph and see the next photograph for the drooping stems and folded leaves.)

Edward Greene (1843-1915) named this species.  "Attenuatum" is Latin for "thin, weak", perhaps referring to the weak flower stem.

Trifolium attenuatum
Trifolium attenuatum (Rocky Mountain Trifolium)
Fabaceae (Pea Family)

Subalpine, alpine. Openings. Summer.
Lizard Head Trail, July 2, 2004.

Click for more Trifolium attenuatum.

Trifolium dasyphyllum
Trifolium dasyphyllum (Shaggy Leaf Trifolium)
Fabaceae (Pea Family)

Subalpine, alpine. Tundra. Summer.
Court House Trail, July 15, 2007.

Flowers in this photograph are faded in the dry heat of the summer of 2007, but the mat form of the plant and the narrow, three-parted leaves are evident.  Compare this plant to Trifolium attenuatum at the top of the page; they are quite similar.  T. attenuatum flowers are on longer stems; the flowers are larger and brighter pink; and the mat of leaves is often taller and wider. Flora of the San Juan Region separates the two as follows:

T. dasyphyllum   Calyces and herbage strigose, less commonly glabrous; banner rounded to acute
T. attenuatum    Calyces and herbage villous-pilose; banner attenuate [gradually narrowed and tapering to a point]. 

T. dasyphyllum has a broader range and can be found in the northern as well as the southern Rockies.  I have found it only once (as pictured in the photographs on this page) in the Four Corners area.  William Weber indicates that T. dasyphyllum is "evidently absent from the San Juans", but Kartesz shows it almost throughout the San Juans.

John Torrey and Asa Gray named this plant in 1838 from a specimen collected by Edwin James on the "Summit of the Rocky Mountains [Pikes Peak]" in 1820.  (Quotation from Intermountain Flora.)  "Dasyphyllum" is Greek for "shaggy leaves".

Trifolium dasyphyllum
Trifolium dasyphyllum (Shaggy Leaf Trifolium)
Fabaceae (Pea Family)

Subalpine, alpine. Tundra. Summer.
Court House Trail, July 15, 2007.

Petal color can vary from all rose to violet-purple to white with pink wings and keel, as shown here.  The sepal teeth are long and quite narrow and pointed.

Trifolium nanum

Trifolium nanum

Trifolium nanum

Trifolium nanum (Dwarf Trifolium)
Fabaceae (Pea Family)

Alpine. Tundra. Summer.
Lizard Head Trail, July 6, 2005.
Sharkstooth Trail, June 28, 2007 and June 22, 2009.

Trifolium nanum hugs the alpine ground with numerous, tiny, three-parted leaves in a tight mat, but it has relatively few flowers, which are, however, large for the size of the plant and always in attractive masses.  Almost all the greenery in the top photo belongs to one plant which might eventually grow to about a foot in diameter.   

"Nanum" is Greek for "dwarf".

In 1820 Edwin James collected this plant on Pikes Peak and John Torrey named it in 1824.

Range map © John Kartesz,
Floristic Synthesis of North America

State Color Key

Species present in state and native
Species present in state and exotic
Species not present in state

County Color Key

Species present and not rare
Species present and rare
Species extirpated (historic)
Species extinct
Species noxious
Species exotic and present
Native species, but adventive in state
Eradicated
Questionable presence

Range map for Trifolium attenuatum

Range map for Trifolium dasyphyllum

Range map for Trifolium nanum