Medium Red Clover

Medium Red Clover (Trifolium pratense) is also known by the names Common Red Clover, Broad-Leaved Clover and Meadow Trefoil. The term medium has doubtless come to be applied to it because the plants are in size intermediate between the Mammoth variety (Trifolium magnum)

and the smaller varieties, as the Alsike (Trifolium hybridum) and the small white (Trifolium repens). But by no designation is it so frequently referred to as that of Red Clover. This plant is spreading and upright in its habit of growth. Several branches rise up from the crown of each plant, and these in turn frequently become branched more or less in their upward growth. The heads which produce the flowers are nearly globular in shape, inclining to ovate, and average about one inch in diameter. Each plant contains several heads, and frequently a large number when the growth is not too crowded. When in full flower these are of a beautiful purple crimson, hence, a field of luxuriant red clover is beautiful to look upon. The stems of the plants are slightly hairy, and ordinarily they stand at least fairly erect and reach the height of about one foot or more; but when the growth is rank, they will grow much higher, even as high as 4 feet in some instances, but when they grow much higher than the average given, the crop usually lodges. The leaves are numerous, and many of them have very frequently, if not, indeed, always, a whitish mark in the center, resembling a horseshoe. The tap roots go down deeply into the soil. Usually they penetrate the same to about 2 feet, but in some instances, as when subsoils are open and well stored with accessible food, they go down to the depth of 5 or 6 feet. The tap roots are numerously branched, and the branches extend in all directions. When they are short, as they must needs be in very stiff subsoils and on thin land underlaid with hard soil, the branches become about as large as the tap roots. It has been computed that the weight of the roots in the soil is about equal to the weight of the stem and leaves. Medium red clover is ordinarily biennial in its habit of growth, but under some conditions it is perennial. Usually in much of the Mississippi basin it is biennial, especially on prairie soils. On the clay loam soils of Ontario, Ohio, Michigan, Wisconsin, Indiana and some other States, it is essentially biennial, but many of the plants will survive for a longer period. In the mountain valleys in the Northwestern States, and on the Pacific slope west of the Cascade Mountains, it is perennial. Medium red clover meadows in these have been cut for several successive years without re-seeding the crop. The duration of this plant is also more or less influenced by pasturing as compared with cutting for seed. Grazing the plants has the effect of prolonging the period of their growth, while maturing seed from them has the opposite effect. Medium red clover is characterized by a rapid growth. Seed sown in the spring has in certain climates produced a crop of hay in 120 days from the date of sowing. It is also most persistent in its growth from spring until fall when sufficient moisture is present. In this property it far outranks any of the other varieties of clover. It comes into bloom in the South during the latter half of May and in the North during the month of June, early or later, according to location, and in about sixty days from the time that it is cut for hay. Ordinarily, a second cutting of hay may be taken from it and still later some pasture. It furnishes excellent pasture, soiling food and hay for nearly all classes of live stock. While it is much relished by the stock, it is probably not exceeded in its capacity for quick and prolonged growth throughout the growing season by any pasture plant, except alfalfa. For a similar reason it stands high as a soiling food. No other variety of clover grown in America will furnish as much of either pasture or soiling food. For animals producing milk and for young animals, the pasture is particularly excellent. It is also the standard pasture for swine where it can be grown, and where alfalfa is not a staple crop. When the hay is well cured, it makes a ration in even balance for cattle and sheep, and for horses it is equally good. The prejudice which exists in some quarters against feeding it to horses has arisen, in part, at least, from feeding it when improperly harvested, when over-ripe, when damaged by rain, or by overcuring in the sun, or when it may have been stored so green as to induce molding. It may also be fed with much advantage to brood sows and other swine in winter. As a soil improver, medium red clover is probably without a rival, unless it be in mammoth clover, and in one respect it exceeds the mammoth variety; that is, in the more prolonged season, during which it may be plowed under as a green manure. Its quick growth peculiarly adapts it to soil enrichment. For this reason, it is more sown than any of the other varieties in the spring of the year, along with the small cereal grains to be plowed under in the late autumn or in the following spring, after the clover has made a vigorous start, since it produces two crops in one season, the first crop may be harvested and the second plowed under after having made a full growth. This can be said of no other variety of clover. More enrichment is also obtained from the falling of the leaves when two crops are grown than from the other varieties. The influence of this plant on weed destruction when grown for hay is greater than with the other varieties of clover. This is owing in part to the shade resulting from its rapid growth and in part to the two cuttings which are usually made of the crop. These two cuttings prevent the maturing of the seeds in nearly all annual weeds, and to a very great extent in all classes of biennials. The power of this crop to smother out perennials is also considerable, and when this is linked with the weakening caused by the two cuttings, it sometimes proves effective in completely eradicating for the time being this class of weeds.

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