Difference between Red Clover and Alsike Clover

Although red clover and alsike clover are both legumes, it is not easy to tell them apart since both look very similar morphologically. It is important to know the difference, however, as alsike can be toxic to horses.

Feeding alsike clover in the form of either hay or pasture has been an issue due to potential toxicity for horses and it is not easy to tell the difference between red clover and alsike clover with the naked eye. In terms of soil types, alsike clover is more tolerant of poorly drained soils than red clover. Potential symptoms from alsike clover poisoning might be: photo sensitization/photodermatitis (“sunburn”), jaundice, anorexia, elevation of temperature, neurological symptoms, dark colored urine, colic, diarrhea and oral lesions. In some instances, horses can die depending on the amount of alsike clover being consumed as hay or pasture. If you notice these symptoms, it is important to contact a local veterinarian as soon as possible. Following are the morphological differences between red clover and alsike clover.

Characteristics

Red Clover

Alsike Clover

Life cycle

Biennial

Perennial

Flower color

Rose - purple

Whitish pink

Flower position

Terminal

Axillary

Plant height (full length)

12 – 15”

15 – 30”

Leaf surface

White “V” on the leaves

No white “V” on the leaves

Leaf edge

No serration

Serrated

Hair on the leaves and stems

Yes

No

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