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White Clover

Trifolium repens

  • Name also: Dutch Clover
  • Family: Pea Family – Fabaceae (Leguminosae)
  • Growing form: Perennial herb.
  • Height: 10–30 cm (4–12 in.). Stem creeping, rooting from joints, glabrous.
  • Flower: Corolla zygomorphic, white (sometimes slightly reddish), later brownish, 8–10 mm (0.32–0.4 in.) long, fused at base. Petals 5; the upstanding the ‘standard’, the lateral two the ‘wings’, the lower two united to form the ‘keel’, overall shape of corolla being butterfly-like. Calyx 5-lobed, glabrous. Stamens 10. A single carpel. Inflorescence a long-stalked, densely globose head, flowers fragrant.
  • Leaves: Alternate, long-stalked, stipulate. Blade with 3 leaflets; leaflets obovate–obcordate, with finely toothed margins, often with white patterning. Stipules mainly united with stalks.
  • Fruit: Indehiscent pod, remains inside calyx.
  • Habitat: Meadows, lawns, yards, paths, waste ground, banks, roadsides, shores.
  • Flowering time: June–August.

Genus Trifolium means three-leaved and refers to the genus’s leaves, which are typically palmate with three leaflets. It can sometimes have more, however, and 4-leaved clover is regarded as a sign of good luck. Those who are looking for four-leaved clover will notice that they can be found in certain areas more than others, which may be due to environmental or hereditary factors. It is still not clear which factor produces an abnormal amount of leaves, even if the scarcity and broad spread points towards it being a mutation. It has been estimated that one out of every ten thousand plants is four-leaved. The very lucky and persistent botanist can also find examples with up to 18 leaflets.

White clover is very common on lawns and in parks, and is not usually difficult to find. It grows low along the ground and does not mind being trampled. It has been exploited in planted grazing land because it is good fodder, especially for horses and sheep. Its sweet, fragrant flowers produce a lot of nectar and it’s one of the best honey plants – although it has been estimated that one kilo of honey requires the bees to visit 60,000 plants! The species’ possible native habitats in Finland have been sandy areas by the sea and river banks. It is quick to follow people though almost anywhere they go: in the yard of a wilderness hut or in a fell-side camp site, it grows in rambler’s tracks.

White clover can be differentiated from its close relative alsike clover (T. hybridum) by e.g. its limp stem.

Other species from the same genus
Other species from the same family

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