A common lawn plant, white clover (aka white Dutch clover) has just begun blooming. It’s a profusely seeding perennial that establishes itself in pastures and along roadsides. It is also a good lawn plant and holds its own with bluegrass.
Clover flowers and leaves grow on separate stalks from stems that lie flat on the ground. Each leaf is made up of three leaflets, each with a pale V on it. Many of us like to search areas of white clover to find four-leaf clovers, which are traditionally considered lucky.
White clover plants grow throughout the United States wherever there is sufficient moisture to enable them to survive. An immigrant from Europe, it arrived with early settlers.
White clover normally grows in association with grass. Even when it’s seeded alone, grasses soon encroach. What’s left is a luxuriant growth; the clover’s presence creates an ideal condition for grass growth. Clover plays a part in increasing nitrogen in the soil. Little swellings are found on the rootlets. These nodules contain a multitude of bacteria that are able to fix the free nitrogen of the air into nitrogen-loaded compounds.
Besides an important pasture and hay crop, white clover is a great honey plant in North America.
In favorable seasons, more than 200 pounds of white clover honey per colony is common. The best yields of nectar, which is used by honeybees to produce honey, come in seasons following a year of excessive rainfall when the conditions favor the rooting of a myriad new plants that are ready to produce a crop of nectar the following summer.
Honey from white clover is mild-flavored and light-colored, and is considered high quality.
Jim Gilbert’s observations have been part of the Minnesota Weatherguide Environment Calendars since 1977, and he is the author of five books on nature in Minnesota. He taught and worked as a naturalist for 50 years.