Common Red, Purple, Meadow, or Honey-suckle Clover – Flowers

(Trifolium pratense)

Pea family

Flowers—Magenta, pink, or rarely whitish, sweet-scented, the tubular corollas set in dense round, oval, or egg-shaped heads about 1 in. long, and seated in a sparingly hairy calyx. Stem : 6 in. to 2 ft. high, branching, reclining, or erect, more or less hairy. Leaves: On long petioles, commonly compounded of 3, but sometimes of 4 to I I oval or oblong leaflets, marked with white crescent, often dark-spotted near centre; stipules egg.

shaped, sharply pointed, strongly veined, over in. long.

Preferred Habitat—Fields, meadows, roadsides.

Flowering Season—April—November.

Distribution—Common throughout Canada and United States.

Meadows bright with clover-heads among the grasses, daisies, and buttercups in June resound with the murmur of unwearying industry and rapturous enjoyment. Bumblebees by the tens of thousands buzzing above acres of the farmer’s clover blossoms should be happy in a knowledge of their benefactions, which doubtless concern them not at all. They have never heard the story of the Australians who imported quantities of clover for fodder, and had glorious fields of it that season, but not a seed to plant next year’s crops, simply because the farmers had failed to import the bumblebee. After her immigration the clovers multiplied prodigiously. No; the bee’s happiness rests on her knowledge that only the butterflies’ long tongues can honestly share with her the brimming wells of nectar in each tiny floret. Children who have sucked them too appreciate her rapture. If we examine a little flower under the magnifying glass, we shall see why its structure places it in the pea family. Bumblebees so depress the keel either when they sip, or feed on pollen, that their heads and tongues get well dusted with the yellow powder, which they transfer to the stigmas of other flowers; whereas the butterflies are of doubtful value, if not injurious, since their long, slender tongues easily drain the nectar without depressing the keel. Even if a few grains of pollen should cling to their tongues, it would probably be wiped off as they withdrew them through the narrow slit, where the petals nearly meet, at the mouth of the flower. Bombus terrestris de-lights in nipping holes at the base of the tube, which other pilferers also profit by. Our country is so much richer in butterflies than Europe, it is scarcely surprising that Professor Robertson found thirteen Lepidoptera out of twenty insect visitors to this clover in Illinois, whereas Muller caught only eight butterflies on it out of a list of thirty-nine visitors in Germany. The fritillaries and the sulphurs are always seen about the clover fields among many others, and the ” dusky wings ” and the caterpillar of several species feeds almost exclusively on this plant.

“To live in clover,” from the insect’s point of view at least, may well mean a life of luxury and affluence. Most peasants in Europe will tell you that a dream about the flower foretells not only a happy marriage, but long life and prosperity. For ages the clover has been counted a mystic plant, and all sorts of good and bad luck were said to attend the finding of variations of its leaves which had more than the common number of leaflets. At evening these leaflets fold downward, the side ones like two hands clasped in prayer, the end one bowed over them. In this fashion the leaves of the white and other clovers also go to sleep, to protect their sensitive surfaces from cold by radiation, it is thought.

The Zig-zag Clover, Cow or MarlGrass (T. Medium), a native of Europe and Asia, now naturalized in the eastern half of the United States and Canada, may scarcely be told from the common red clover, except by its crooked, angular stems—often provokingly straight—by its unspotted leaves, and the short peduncle in which its heads are elevated above the calyx.

Farmers here are beginning to learn the value of the beautiful Crimson, Carnation, Italian Clover, or Napoleons (T. incarnaturn), and happily there are many fields and waste places in the East already harboring the brilliant runaways. The narrow heads may be two and a half inches long. A meadow of this fodder plant makes one envious of the very cattle that may spend the summer day wading through acres of its deep bright bloom.