White clover (Trifolium repens) is native to Europe and the UK. It's a common 'lawn weed' in gardens and grows widely as a wildflower in the wider countryside. White clover forms creeping mats clothed with small, three-lobed leaves. Occasionally four-lobed leaves occur, and these are known as ‘lucky’ four-leaf clovers. The summer flowers are rounded heads made up of many tiny, tubular blooms and are mostly white in colour, although some develop pink or cream tinges.
White clover needs a sunny site and grows in a wide range of soils, from damp to dry, but doesn’t thrive in waterlogged or acidic soils. The stems of white clover root as they spread and touch the ground, which is seen as one of its disadvantages by gardeners who try and cultivate a lawn composed of grass alone. However, the growth of white clover can be restricted by raking it prior to mowing, which lifts the running shoots up to be sliced off by the mower. Clover has the ability to take nitrogen from the atmosphere and enrich the soil, so in this regard it is a useful lawn plant: however, it is not ideal to deliberately add to a wildflower meadow because it will boost the fertility of the soil and encourage grass growth, which would out-compete other wildflowers.
The flowers of white clover are very good for wildlife, and this makes it a useful component of a nature-friendly lawn. Because clover thrives in dry conditions it provides colour to a lawn in times of drought when grass yellows and dies. The leaves are rich in protein and provide a useful source of food for small mammals such as mice, when other foods such as fruits and nuts are in short supply. Clover flowers have very high quality pollen, providing a valuable food source for bees, particularly bumblebees. They're also full of nectar – once white clover was a popular sweet treat with children, who pulled the flowers out of their heads and sucked the bases for tiny, delicious, drops of sweet nectar. This has led to white clover having other common names including bee-bread, honeystalks and honeysuckle grass.
Trifolium and wildlife
Trifolium is known for attracting bees, birds and butterflies/moths. It has nectar/pollen rich flowers and has seeds for birds.
Is Trifolium poisonous?
Trifolium has no toxic effects reported.
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