To a lot of people clover is a nuisance plant, spoiling the look of their lawn, which it does if you like your lawns uniformly green and devoid of insect life. It is actually grown as a crop, providing excellent fodder for livestock. It gives us an example of farmers and bee keepers living in harmony, the clover needs pollination from bees and the bees need the clover to make their honey.
As clover is a member of the legume family, which also includes peas and beans, it is an excellent nitrogen fixer for soil. Such plants obtain nitrogen from the atmosphere and fix it into the soil benefiting other plants as well as themselves and meaning the farmer doesn’t have to buy expensive nitrogen fertilizers. Clover also provides more protein than grass, hence the cattle-fattening properties. A word of warning though, it seems that clover forms an emulsion like substance in the cow’s rumen which can prevent her from belching accumulated gas. Farmers need to ensure that their clover-fed cattle get enough fibre to prevent this problem or their cows could explode!
So now you are wondering if clover is edible for humans. Apparently it is, though with the same caveat as for cattle – beware bloating! I have picked out some recipes for the industrious: red clover wine here, white clover jelly here, pink clover jelly (with bonus cat photos) here, and from the 1950s a lucky clover cake here.
Back to the wildlife, clover is a very important source of food for our beloved pollinators, the bumble bee and the honey bee, as well as various butterfly and moth species. Deer like to munch on it and it seems that in the US wild turkeys are fond of eating clover.
The white clover seems most abundant on the lawn of “Ratz Manor”, but there are red and purple varieties. It is also known as Trefoil, due to the three leaves that they sport. Occasionally they can be found with four leaves and it is considered lucky to happen upon such a plant.
I shall leave you with a haiku by Matsuo Basho:
bush-clover flowers —
they sway but do not drop
their beads of dew