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Do you know your three leaflet weeds - Trefoils, Medicks, Clovers and Oxalis?

Posted in Garden Advice on May 18, 2018

Trifoliate - Three Leaflets 

Do you know your three leaflet weeds? There are many weeds that grow in New Zealand lawns and gardens that look rather similar in that the leaves are divided into three leaflets and look a bit like the Irish 3-leaf shamrock symbol. Such leaves are known as trifoliate. These weeds are low growing, spreading or sometimes scrambling.

Here are some similar weeds with their distinguishing features:

Name and What to Look For Image


Hairy Bird’s Foot Trefoil – Lotus suaveolens
Slender Bird’s Foot Trefoil – Lotus angustissimus
Bird’s Foot Trefoil – Lotus corniculatus

Leaves have a pair of leaf-like stipules at the base of the leaf stalk.



Black Medick – Medicago lupulina
Bur Medick – Medicago nigra
Spotted Bur Medick – Medicago arabica

Stems lie flat or curved upwards. Centre leaflet stalked.



Haresfoot Trefoil – Trifolium arvense
Softly hairy, greyish colour.

Suckling Clover – Trifolium dubium
Almost hairless, thin wiry stems.

Red Clover – Trifolium pratense
Leaves covered in soft, dense hairs.

White Clover – Trifolium repens
Creeping stems that root at notes.

Subterranean Clover – Trifolium subterraneum
Leaves hairy often with dark marks. 

Image not found 


Sourgrass – Oxalis articulate
Horned Oxalis – Oxalis corniculate
Fishtail Oxalis – Oxalis latifolia
Bermuda Buttercup – Oxalis pes-caprae
Pink Shamrock – Oxalis vallicola
Creeping Oxalis - Oxalis exilis

Oxalis leaflets are heart-shaped with notch at top of the central rib. Often the leaflet appears folded along the central rib.

Horned Oxalis

Note that the header image is of the NZ native Creeping Oxalis - Oxalis exilis.

If you need to get rid of these weeds then our recommendations are:

In Lawns

In Garden Beds

  • Spot treat with Weed Weapon Rapid Action or Weed Weapon Invade Gel. Weed Weapon is systemic and kills weeds down to the roots within 2-4 days and is an ideal product for use around established trees and shrubs. It is inactive in the soil so planting can be safely carried out soon after treatment.
  • For a fast-acting organic solution use Kiwicare Weed Weapon Natural Power.
  • For best results use in Spring and Autumn when weeds and turf are growing.

In Paths and Driveways

  • For long term control on paths and driveways use Weed Weapon Long Term. This will kill a wide range of weeds and prevent regrowth for up to 12 months.
  • For a fast acting organic solution use Weed Weapon Natural Power.
  • For best results use in Spring and Autumn when weeds and turf are growing.

David Brittain

Looking for something specific? Contact us for more help.

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