Carnegiea gigantea, Giant Saguaro

Southwest Desert Flora

Home to the plants of the Sonoran, Chihuahuan and Mojave Deserts

Cirsium ochrocentrum, Yellowspine Thistle

Trifolium gracilentum, Pinpoint Clover

Pinpoint Clover has pink to reddish purple flowers. The flowering stem is an umbel with 3 or more flowers. Trifolium gracilentum Pinpoint Clover flowers are strongly reflexed after blooming and often turned to the side. The fruits are indehiscent legumes meaning that the fruits do not open at maturity. Trifolium gracilentum Pinpoint Clover flowers bloom from March to May or June. Fruiting follows shortly thereafter. Trifolium gracilentum Pinpoint Clover leaves are green, palmately compound. The leaflets are obovate to obcordate with acute teeth. The tips are shallowly notched, and the leaves are mostly smooth. Trifolium gracilentum Pinpoint Clover is a member of the Fabaceae or Leguminosae family and is found along the west coast of the United States, Arizona northwestern Mexico. This species prefers open, disturbed areas, moist or dry areas and grassy areas near the ocean. Trifolium gracilentum

Scientific Name: Trifolium gracilentum
Common Name: Pinpoint Clover

Also Called: Pin-Point Clover, Slender Clover, Southern Island Clover

Family: Fabaceae or Leguminosae Family

Synonyms: (Trifolium gracilentum var. gracilentum, Trifolium gracilentum var. inconspicuum)

Status: Native

Duration: Annual

Size: 3 to 12 inches (7.6 to 30.4 cm) or more.

Growth Form: Forb/herb; stems and vegetation are mostly glabrous or slightly hairy; plants prostrate to erect.

Leaves: Green; palmately compound; leaflets variable, mostly glabrous.

Flower Color: Pink to reddish purple, purple in age, recurved; inflorescence an umbel, 3 to many flowers often turned to the side; fruit an indehiscent legume, seeds 1 or 2.

Flowering Season: March to May or June

Elevation: 2,500 to below 6,000 feet (762 to below 1,800 m)

Habitat Preferences: Open, disturbed areas, moist or dry areas, grassy areas near the ocean.

Recorded Range: Trifolium gracilentum is found along the west coast of the United and Arizona. It is also native to northwestern Mexico.

North America & US County Distribution Map for Trifolium gracilentum.

North America species range map for Pinpoint Clover, Trifolium gracilentum:

North America species range map for Pinpoint Clover, Trifolium gracilentum:
Click image for full size map.

U.S. Weed Information: Unknown
Invasive/Noxious Weed Information: Unknown
Wetland Indicator: Unknown
Threatened/Endangered Information:Unknown

Genus Information: In North America there are 116 species for Trifolium. Worldwide, World Flora Online includes 367 accepted species name for the genus.

The genus Trifolium was published in 1753 Carl Linnaeus, (1707-1778).

In the Southwestern United States: Arizona has 20 species of Trifolium genus, California has 51 species, Nevada has 22 species, New Mexico has 19 species, Texas has 16 species, Utah has 18 species. All data approximate and subject to revision.

There are 2 varieties in Trifolium gracilentum;
Trifolium gracilentum var. gracilentum, Pinpoint Clover, (AZ, CA, OR, WA);
Trifolium gracilentum var. palmeri, Palmer's clover, (Channel Islands of CA).

Comments: According to the California Native Plant Society, (Calscape website), Pinpoint Clover is a likely host plant for 64 species of butterflies and moths including those listed below.

In Southwest Desert Flora also see Tomcat Clover, Trifolium wildenovii.

Importance to Wildlife, Birds and Livestock
Pinpoint Clover, Trifolium gracilentum has attractive fragrant flowers, the flowers and their seeds may be visited by hummingbirds and/or small mammals including rodents and granivorous birds in search of nectar or food.

Beneficial Value to Butterflies, Honey Bees and Insects
Pinpoint Clover, Trifolium gracilentum has flowers that are particularly attractive to butterflies, moths, flies, honeybees, Native Bees and other insects in search of food and nectar.

According to the California Native Plant Society, Pinpoint Clover is a likely host plant for 64 species of butterflies and moths, including those listed below. Likely host plants all belong to a known host genus for the butterflies and moths but the individual plant species have not been verified as host plants.

  • Gray Hairstreak, Strymon melinus
  • Orange Sulphur, Colias eurytheme
  • Southern Dogface, Zerene cesonia
  • Shasta Blue, Icaricia shasta
  • Greenish Blue, Icaricia saepiolus
  • Persius Duskywing, Erynnis persius
  • Clouded Sulphur, Colias philodice
  • Queen Alexandra's Sulphur, Colias alexandra
  • Find out more here from Butterflies and Moths of North America.

    The genus “Trifolium” is derived from the Latin meaning "three-leaved".

    The genus Trifolium was published in 1753 Carl Linnaeus, (1707-1778).

    The species epithet gracilentum is from the Latin words gracile, slender, graceful and gracilenta, slender; a reference to its graceful slender stems.

    The taxon Trifolium gracilentum was described in 1838 by John Torrey, (1796-1873) and Asa Gray, (1810-1888).

    Pinpoint Clover has been used for food by indigenous peoples of California.
  • Luiseno Food, Unspecified, Plant eaten both cooked and raw.

  • See complete listing of ethno-botanical uses at Native American Ethnobotany, University of Michigan, Dearborn.

    Date Profile Completed: 11/21/2019, updated 04/05/2022

    References and additional information:
    Kearney, Thomas H., Peebles, Robert H., 1960, Arizona Flora, University of California Press, Berkley and Los Angeles, California.; Department of Agriculture, Natural Resources Conservation Service on-line database and USGS ITIS search; accessed on-line; 04/03/2022. for genus Trifolium
    World Flora Online; A Project of the World Flora Online Consortium; An Online Flora of All Known Plants - (accessed on-line; 04/03/2022)
    Michael A. Vincent & Duane Isely 2012, Trifolium gracilentum, in Jepson Flora Project (eds.) Jepson eFlora,, accessed on April 03, 2022.
    Wikipedia contributors. "Trifolium gracilentum." Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, 11 Mar. 2021. Web. 4 Apr. 2022.
    Seiler, John, Peterson, John, North American species range map courtesy of Virginia Tech, Dept. of Forest Resources & Environmental Conservation
    SEINet synonyms, scientific names, geographic locations, general information.
    Etymology: Michael L. Charters California Plant Names: Latin and Greek Meanings and Derivations; A Dictionary of Botanical and Biographical Etymology - (accessed on-line; 04/03/2022)
    IPNI (2020). International Plant Names Index. Published on the Internet, The Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, Harvard University Herbaria & Libraries and Australian National Botanic Gardens. [Retrieved on-line; 23 February 2022].