Running buffalo clover (Trifolium stoloniferum) was once thought to be extinct until it was re-discovered in West Virginia in 1983. It is a Federal endangered species, known to occur in Indiana, Kentucky, Missouri, Ohio and West Virginia (formerly in Illinois and Kansas). The common name refers to its relationship with buffalo (Bison bison). When buffalo roamed eastern United States, including Ohio, running buffalo clover grew along the many buffalo trails and in meadows and open woods where buffalo and other large herbivores such as deer and elk grazed. Once the buffalo was brought near to extinction, running buffalo clover populations plummeted and it, like the buffalo before it, became extirpated in Ohio.
Since its re-discovery, running buffalo clover has been found at a number of locations in Ohio, primarily southwestern Ohio in and around Cincinnati. In 2009, Division of Natural Areas and Preserves staff and volunteers discovered a population at Boch Hollow State Nature Preserve, located in Hocking County.
Running buffalo clover is a perennial forb that spreads primarily by stolons, stems that grow on the soil surface ( e.g. strawberry runners). New plants form where roots develop along the stolon. Botanists monitor the species by counting individual plants or “rooted crowns” to determine population size. The first detailed count of the Boch Hollow population was performed in 2010, and a total of 1277 rooted crowns were recorded.
The Division manages running buffalo clover following guidelines set by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. In late 2012 to early 2013, the Division removed multiflora rose (Rosa multiflora) and Japanese barberry (Berberis thunbergii) from the site, which were beginning to impact the population and reduce its spread to new locations. The following spring, several new subpopulations were discovered near the original site.
In 2014, Division staff counted approximately 3,300 rooted crowns at Boch Hollow, which is by far the largest known population in the state.