Yellow Clover

Yellow clover (Medicago lupulina) is to be carefully distinguished

from Hop clover (Medicago procumbens), which it resembles so closely

in the form of the leaves and the color of the bloom as to have given

rise in some instances to the interchangeable use of the names. The

latter is so named from the resemblance of the withered head when ripe

to a bunch of hops. Its growth has been almost entirely superseded by

Medicago lupulina, since the other variety was low in production and

also in nutrition. Medicago lupulina is also called Black Medick,

Nonesuch, Black Nonesuch and Hop Trefoil. In both England and Germany it

is now more commonly grown than white clover. It is more or less

recumbent in its habit of growth, but the stems do not root as do the

runners in the small white variety. The stems, though tender in the

early spring, become woody as the season advances. The flowers, as the

name would indicate, are yellow, and the plants produce seed numerously.

The roots, like those of the small white variety, are more fibrous than

in some of the larger varieties.

Yellow clover is perennial. Owing to the power which the plants have to

multiply through rooting and re-seeding, they can stay indefinitely in

congenial soils. The growth is vigorous in the early part of the season,

but less so later, and with the advance of the season the herbage

produced becomes more woody in character.

This plant furnishes considerable pasture during the spring months, but

in the summer and autumn it makes but little growth. Though palatable

early in the season, it is less so later. Nevertheless, it may be made

to add materially to the produce of pastures in which it grows. It also

aids in fertilizing the soil, though probably not quite to the same

extent as white clover.

Yellow clover is indigenous to Europe. It is grown to a considerable

extent in pastures in certain areas in Great Britain, France, Germany

and other countries. It has highest adaptation for climates that are

moist and temperate. Although this plant is not extensively grown in the

United States, it would seem probable that it will grow at least

reasonably well in a majority of the States. The exceptions will be

those lacking in moisture in the absence of irrigation. It will grow

best in those that more properly lie within the clover belt; that is, in

those that lie northward. It grows with much vigor in Oregon and

Washington west of the Cascade Mountains. In Canada, yellow clover will

grow with much vigor in all areas susceptible of cultivation, unless on

certain of the western prairies.

Yellow clover has highest adaptation for calcareous soils. In certain

parts of England it has grown so vigorously on soils rich in lime as

almost to assume the character of a troublesome weed. It will grow well

on all clay loam soils, and reasonably well on stiff clays, the climatic

conditions being suitable. It has greater power to grow on dry soils

than the small white variety.

Since yellow clover is usually grown as an adjunct to permanent

pastures, it can scarcely be called a rotation plant. But, like other

clovers, it enriches the soil, and, therefore, should be followed by

crops that are specially benefited by such enrichment, as, for

instance, the small cereal grains.

Yellow clover when sown is usually sown with other grass mixtures, and

along with grain as a nurse crop; hence, that preparation of the soil

suitable for the nurse crop will also be found suitable for the clover.

It is, moreover, a hardy plant, insomuch that in some instances, if the

seed is scattered over unplowed surfaces, as those of pastures, in the

early spring, a sufficient number of plants will be obtained to

eventually establish the clover through self-seeding.

The seed is usually sown in the early spring, but in mild latitudes it

may also be sown in the early autumn. It may be sown by the same methods

as other clovers. (See page 267.) It is usually sown to provide pasture,

the seed being mixed with that of other pasture plants before being

sown. As the plants, like those of the small white variety, have much

power to increase rather than decrease in pastures, it is not necessary

to sow large quantities of seed, not more usually than 1 pound to the

acre. But should the crops be wanted for seed, then not fewer than 3 to

5 pounds per acre should be sown and without admixture with other

grasses or clovers. When the plants once obtain a footing on congenial

soils, there is usually enough of seed in the soil to make a sufficient

stand of the plants in pastures without sowing any seed, but since the

seed is usually relatively cheap, where an insufficient supply in the

soil is suspected, more or less seed should be sown.

Since the stems of yellow clover plants become tough as the season of

growth becomes considerably advanced, where it forms a considerable

proportion of the pasture the aim should be to graze most heavily during

the early part of the season. The plants do not make much growth during

the autumn. It would probably be correct to say that it can grow under

conditions more dry than are suitable for white clover, and,

consequently, it is more uniformly prominent in evidence in permanent

pastures when it has become established.

Yellow clover is not a really good hay plant, owing to its lack of

bulkiness. But in some soils its presence may add considerably to the

weight of a crop of hay, of which it is a factor.

This plant produces seed freely. The seeds are dark in color and weigh

60 pounds to the bushel. The seed matures early, usually in June or

July, according to locality. The methods of harvesting, threshing and

preparing the seed for market are substantially the same as those

adapted in handling small white clover. (See page 272.)

While yellow clover is not the equal of the small white clover in

adaptation to our conditions, it would seem that there are no reasons

why it should not be sown to a greater extent than it is sown under

American conditions. A plant that is so hardy, that provides a

considerable quantity of reasonably good pasture, that stores nitrogen

in the soil, and that, moreover, does not stay in the soil to the extent

of injuring crops that follow the breaking up of the pastures, should

certainly be encouraged to grow.

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