|Conditions:||dry to normal, nitrogen-poor soils|
White Clover (Trifolium repens) is a species of clover native to Europe, northern Africa, and western Asia. It has been widely introduced elsewhere in the world as a pasture crop. Clover often grows in lawns, either as a weed or as an intentional lawn plant.
It is an herbaceous perennial plant. It is low growing, with heads of whitish flowers, often with a tinge of pink or cream. The heads are generally 1.5-2 cm wide, and are at the end of 7 cm peduncles or flower stalks. The leaves are trifoliolate, smooth, elliptic to egg-shaped and long-petioled. The stems function as stolons, so white clover often forms mats with the stems creeping as much as 18 cm a year, and rooting at the nodes.
White clover grows in turfgrass, crops, and landscapes. It is also found in a wide range of different field type environments. White clover can tolerate close mowing. It can grow on many different types of soil with various pH levels, but prefers clay. Like all clovers, this plant has a symbiotic relationship with nitrogen-fixing rhizobacteria that like in specialized root nodules, so it grows quite well in nitrogen-poor soils.
Before the introduction of broad-leaf herbicides, white clover was often added to lawn seed mixes, as it is able to grow and provide green cover in poorer soils where turfgrasses do not perform well. It is now generally considered a weed when growing in lawns, in part because the flowers are attractive to bees and wasps and thus create a danger for people using the lawn.
Besides making an excellent forage crop for livestock, clovers are a valuable survival food: they are high in protein, widespread, and abundant. They are not easy to digest raw, but this can be easily fixed by boiling for 5-10 minutes. Dried flowerheads and seedpods can also be ground up into a nutritious flour and mixed with other foods. Dried flowerheads also can be steeped in hot water for a healthy, tasty tea-like infusion.
White clover is frequently used as a "living mulch" due to its nitrogen-fixing abilities and low habit. Aside from controlling erosion, the flowers serve to attract pollenating insects as well.
- Richard H. Uva, Joseph C. Neal and Joseph M. Ditomaso, Weeds of The Northeast, (Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 1997), Pp. 236-237.
- Lee Allen Peterson, Edible Wild Plants, (New York City: Houghton Mifflin Company, 1977), P. 56.