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 Its growth has been almost entirely superseded by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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