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Abstract The components of actual and potential seed yield were examined in field experiments on a wide range of varieties of white clover (Trifolium repens L.). The factors affecting seed yield under conditions typical of management regimes used in the production of commercial seed crops were assessed in two experiments. In the first, carried out on spaced plants, considerable diferences are shown between six varieties across the range of leaf sizes in the distribution and profuseness of inflorescence production through the flowering season. In the second, carried out in plots, typical on-farm criteria were used to choose a single harvest date. Significant variation was found between varieties, including representatives of different leaf size categories, for seed yield components that include number of inflorescences m−2, number of florets per inflorescence and harvestable seed weight. Large-leaved varieties tended to produce more seeds per floret and higher seed weights per inflorescence, whereas small-leaved varieties gave the highest number of inflorescences −2. However, the small-leaved variety AderDale, selected for strong peduncles, was exceptional, giving high values for all seed yield components. The impact of weather conditions on many seed yield components (e.g. total number of inflorescences) was demonstrated by the differences between the 2 years of the experiment. However, other characterstics, e.g. number of florets per inflorescence and number of seeds per floret, did not vary between years. Deviations from potential seed yield were assessed fromthe perspective of commerical seed production. The implications of these results for the production of white clover varieties with increased seed yields under UK conditions are discussed.