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This is a short presentation on Trifolium, the clover genus, a favorite of pollinators.
This presentation was put together by Jacob Deaver, Jonathon Schmidtt, and Yer Xiong.
This presentation will primarily focus on two species of clover – Trifolium repens
and Trifolium pratense, pictured here.
Trifolium repens, or white clover is a short, sprawling ground cover with round, three-lobed
leaves and clusters of small white flowers at the top of the plant. It blooms from June
to August. White clover is a native of Eurasia, but has naturalized throughout the world.
It grows in a variety of soil conditions and provides abundant pollen and nectar for pollinators
while in bloom.
Interesting tidbit number 1 - Shigeo Obara of Hanamaki City, Japan holds the Guinness
World Record for the most-leaves ever found on a clover stem. The stem had 56 leaves!
Trifolium pratense, or red clover, is a medium to tall plant with hairy stems and three lobed
leaves, topped by small clusters of purple or red flowers. It blooms from June to September
and prefers well-drained soils. It is native to Southeastern Europe and Asia Minor, but
like white clover has naturalized throughout the world.
Interesting tidbit number two – Red clover is edible and according to Herbwisdom.com
is a source of many nutrients including calcium, magnesium, potassium, Vitamin C and more.
There are many other species of clover, including Trifolium hybridum, or Alsike Clover. Alsike
clover originated in Sweden and has been grown commercially in temperate parts of Europe
for centuries. It shares many traits of both red and white clover, is cold tolerant, and
may make a good alternate attractant for pollinators in the landscape.
People should be aware of Melilotus spp., or yellow and white sweet clover. While the
common name suggests otherwise, these species are not true clovers. Both species grow quite
tall, from 2 feet the first year up to 8” the second year and produce an abundance of
white or yellow flowers. While they may serve as good forage for pollinators, both species
are highly invasive and we would recommend against planting or encouraging them to grow.
Interesting tidbit number 3 – It is estimated that 1 in 10,000 clovers will have four leaves
instead of the usual three. The four leaves are said to denote faith, hope, love, and
luck, so be on the lookout!
Returning to our two primary species of clover, white clover is preferred by short and long-tongued
bees, wasps, and flies, all of which can collect nectar and pollen from this species. Butterflies,
skippers, and moths are also known to visit and collect nectar but do not pollinate these
Red clover is preferred by long-tongued bees as well as flies and hummingbirds, all of
which collect nectar and pollinate flowers. Short-tongued bees, skippers, butterflies,
and moths are also known to visit these flowers for nectar but do not pollinate.
Interesting tidbit number 4 - In 1895, red clover became Vermont’s state flower, representing
the state’s farms and fields.
One use for these plants would be bee lawns – planting clover in your lawn, especially
white clover which is short and easy to manage. This is a great way to provide pollinator
habitat right in your yard. It looks nice, adds some color, and bees love it. You will
get a lot of bees and other pollinators in your yard throughout the summer. Care must
be taken, however, with small children to ensure they do not get stung while running
through a clover-filled yard. Interspersing part of the yard with clover and leaving another
part planted with only grass may be a good compromise.
Another idea is pasture mixes of both red and white clover. These can both be used for
grazing by various herd animals. It is also important to control grazing to ensure that
not all flowering plants are consumed by cows, sheep, goats, or other herd animals. Keeping
these animals rotated through various parts of the pasture will give plants time to recover
and provide better forage and habitat for pollinators.
Thank you for tuning in. Here are the resources that we used to put together this presentation.