Mammoth Clover (Trifolium magnum) was long ago named Trifolium
medium by Linnaeus. However appropriate the designation may have been at
the time, it is not so now, at least under American conditions, as in
this country there is no other variety of clover
so large, unless sweet
clover (Melilotus alba). To apply to it the distinguishing term
medium, therefore, is positively misleading, since the smaller variety
of red clover commonly grown occupies such middle ground, as the term
medium would indicate. Because of this, the author has ventured to
designate it Trifolium magnum. It has also been classified, and with
no little appropriateness, Trifolium pratense perenne, which has
reference to the mildly perennial habit of growth in this plant. In
common phrase it is known by such names as Large, Tall, Saplin or
Sapling, Giant, Meadow, Perennial Red, Red Perennial Meadow, Pea Vine,
Zigzag, Wavy Stemmed, Soiling, and Cow clover or Cow grass. Each of
these names has reference to some peculiarity of growth in the plant.
For instance, the terms Large, Tall, Saplin and Giant have reference to
the size of the plant; and the terms Pea Vine, Zigzag and Wavy Stemmed
to the somewhat irregular and trailing habit of growth in the stems,
and so of the others. The designation Cow grass is an English term.
Mammoth clover is a large variety of red clover; in fact, the largest
variety of red clover in America. The plants are strong, stronger than
those of the medium red variety, and the stems are much larger. They are
softer than those of the medium red, which to some extent may account
for the less erect habit of growth which characterizes it. The leaves
are usually destitute of the white spot found on those of the other
variety. The heads are also probably larger and somewhat more open, but
there is no appreciable difference in the size of the seed. The plants,
notwithstanding, bear so much resemblance to those of the common red
variety that it is not easy to distinguish them unless by the large size
of the plants of the former. The roots are larger and stronger than
those of the medium red variety, and as a result have more power to
gather plant food in the soil.
Mammoth clover is biennial under some conditions and under others it is
perennial, although it is not usually a long-lived perennial. It has a
stronger habit of growth than the medium red, and is, therefore, rather
better fitted to thrive under adverse conditions, more especially when
it has once obtained a hold upon the soil. It grows chiefly in the first
half of the season, and makes but little growth, relatively, in the
autumn, or, indeed, any time the same season after the crop has been
harvested for hay. In the Northern States it comes into flower about
the middle of July, and in those of the South correspondingly earlier.
It is relished by all kinds of domestic animals kept upon the farm, but
the hay is relatively better adapted to cows and other cattle than to
horses and sheep. If cut too late, or much injured in the curing, it is
too dusty for horses, and the growth is too coarse to make first-class
hay for sheep. It makes excellent soiling food, because of the abundance
of the growth and the considerable season during which it may be fed in
the green form.
It is peculiarly valuable as a fertilizer and as an improver of soils.
In addition to the nitrogen which it draws from the air and deposits in
the soil, it brings up plant food from the subsoil and stores it in the
leaves and stems, so that when fed it can be returned to the land. It
also fills the soil with an abundance of roots and rootlets. These
render stiff soils more friable, and sandy soils less porous; they
increase the power of all soils to hold moisture, and in their decay
yield up a supply of plant food already prepared for the crops that are
next grown upon the ground.
Mammoth clover may also be utilized with advantage in lessening the
numbers of certain noxious weeds, and in some instances of eradicating
them altogether. This it does in some instances by smothering them,
through the rankness of the growth. In other instances it is brought
about through the setback which is given to the weeds by first pasturing
the crop and then cutting it later for seed.
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