White Clover (Trifolium repens) is also called Dutch, White Dutch,
White Trefoil, Creeping Trifolium and Honeysuckle clover. The name Dutch
clover has doubtless been applied to it because of the extent to which
it is in evidence in the pastures and meadows of
Holland; the name
Creeping Trifolium, because of the creeping character of the stems,
which, under favorable conditions, send roots down into the soil; and
Honeysuckle clover, because of the honey supplies which it furnishes for
bees. It is one of the plants known as Shamrock, the national emblem of
White clover is perennial, the stems of which creep along the ground
and, as above intimated, root at the joints; so that from this source
plants are indefinitely multiplied. They also come from the seed. The
leaves are small and very numerous, and with the exception of the flower
stems and flowers, furnish all the forage obtained. The flowers are very
numerous, especially when showery weather precedes and accompanies the
flowering season. They are large for the size of the plant, are
supported by a leafless stem of considerable length, and are white or
tinted with a delicate rose color. The roots are numerous and fibrous.
They cannot go down into the soil so deeply as the larger clovers;
hence, the dwarfing effect of dry seasons upon the growth.
This plant is exceedingly hardy. It comes out from under the snow with a
green tint, and the leaves are not easily injured by the frosts of
autumn. The growth is not rapid until the general late rains of spring
fall freely. It then pushes on rapidly, and, sending up innumerable
flower stems, turns the pastures in which it abounds into immense flower
gardens in the months of May and June, according to the latitude of the
locality. The bloom remains out for a considerable time, and free
grazing has the effect of prolonging the period of bloom. Under such
conditions, blossoms continue to form and mature seeds during much of
the summer. When these escape being grazed, they fall down upon the land
and aid in forming additional plants. Hence it is that when white clover
has once possessed a soil, it so stores the land with seed possessed of
so much vitality that subsequently white clover plants grow, as it were,
spontaneously on these lands when they have been thus grazed even for a
limited term of years.
The power of this useful plant to travel and possess the land is only
equalled by that of blue grass. When timber lands are cleared, white
clover plants soon appear, and in a few years will spread over the whole
surface of the land. But the amount of grazing furnished by it varies
greatly with the character of the season. Some seasons its bloom is
scarcely in evidence; other seasons it overspreads the pastures.
While it is an excellent pasture plant for stock, they do not relish it
so highly as some other pasture plants; when forming seed, it is least
valuable for horses, owing to the extent to which it salivates them. Its
diminutive habit of growth unfits it for making meadows, unless in
conjunction with other hay plants. In nutritive properties, it is placed
ahead of medium red clover. Some growers have spoken highly of it as a
pasture plant for swine.
Being a legume, it has the power of enriching soils with nitrogen, but
probably not to so great an extent as the larger varieties of clover.
Its rootlets, however, have a beneficent influence on the texture of
soils, because of their number, and because of the power of the stems to
produce fresh plants, which occupy the soil when other plants die. The
latter furnish a continued source of food to other grasses, which grow
along with white clover in permanent pastures.
Along with blue grass, white clover plants aid in choking out weeds.
This result follows largely as the outcome of the close sod formed by
the two. But in some soils, plants of large growth and bushes and young
trees will not thus be crowded out.
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