This section is from the book "British Wild Flowers - In Their Natural Haunts Vol2-4", by A. R. Horwood. Also available from Amazon: A British Wild Flowers In Their Natural Haunts.
I'll seek a four-leaved clover In all the fairy dells, And if I find the charmed leaf - Oh, how I'll weave my spells!
Two-leaved clover is lucky, and gathered with a formula:
A clover, a clover of two,
Put it in your right shoe,
The first young man you meet,
In field, street, or lane,
You'll get him, or one of his name.
If a lover puts a sprig of clover in his shoe before he sets out on a journey in Bohemia he will remain faithful, and a lover also puts a four-leaved one under his pillow to dream of his sweetheart. To dream of it foretells a happy marriage. To live in luxury is "to lie in clover'. Bad luck attends the finding of a five-leaved cloven Red Clover is one of the most useful plants for meadow lands. It is sown in spring with corn, and when the corn is cut it furnishes a winter fodder, growing up with it. It is also ploughed in as a green crop, enriching the soil by the power it has of fixing nitrogen by bacterial agency. It was first grown in 1645 in this country.
Essential Specific Characters: 78. Trifolium pratense, L. - Stem rigid, hairy, leaflets broad, entire, stipules blunt, ovate, flowers purple, sessile, in round heads, calyx downy.
White or Dutch Clover (Trifolium repens, L.)
This is one of the Leguminosae which, so far as we know, is of quite recent date. The North Temperate and Arctic Zones are its home, i.e. in Arctic Europe, N. Africa, N. and W. Asia, India, and N. America. In Great Britain it is found in every county as far north as the Shetlands, and in the Highlands it is found growing at 2700 ft. It is a native of Ireland and the Channel Islands.
Truly wild upon most sandy stretches of pasture, the Dutch or White Clover is to be found in fields, on banks, upland as well as lowland, in all parts of the country; but it is rather more common in the eastern and southern counties than in the west and northern counties. With its occurrence is connected the honey output of most hives, as the Red Clover is inaccessible to the hive bee.
While Alsike and Red Clover are more or less erect, Dutch Clover is a creeping, trailing plant, with numerous, widespreading, simple stems, with leaflets in threes, egg-shaped at either end, slightly notched at the tip and toothed, with a green or purple or white spot in the centre. The leaf-like organs on the leaf-stalks are narrowly elliptic, and drawn out into a point, with purple veins.
The white, rarely purplish, flowers are in clusters, and when young are erect, but later bent down, on long stalks, the heads being in umbels. The ten calyx teeth are about equal, and ribbed, with bristlelike teeth. The corolla, like the pea flower, is twice the length of the calyx, the standard being brown, not falling.
The pods are long, and contain four seeds.
Rarely does the White Clover exceed 2 to 3 in. in height. The flowers are in bloom from May to September. It is perennial, and increases by root division.
The Dutch Clover has a very simple flower, in which the wings are united to the keel at one point, and the stamens and pistil are enclosed in the keel. They protrude when it is depressed and return when the pressure is removed, and the pollen is thus well covered, or protected from rain or creeping insects. The honey lies at the base of the ovary near the base of the united stamens, being reached by apertures each side of the free stamen. The insect stands on the two wings, thrusting its head beneath the standard, which it forces up, depressing the wings and keel and forcing the stamens and pistil against the bee's abdomen, and possibly causing cross-pollination on the return of the parts to their place if the insect has previously visited another flower of the same species. The stigma projects above the anthers, first touching the abdomen of a visitor. The calyx-tube is short, allowing Andrena and Halictus to reach the honey. The wings and keel move together or rotate when pressed, and the former projecting beyond the latter this causes a lever motion. The elasticity of the standard causes the parts to return to their place after insects' visits, and the other parts also. The visitors are Hymenoptera (Apidae, Apis mellifica, Bom-bus pratorum, Megachile willonghbiella, Halictus tarsatus, H. immaculatus, Andrena fulvicrus); Diptera (Syrphidae, Volucella bombylans, Conopidae, Myopa buccata, M. testacea); Lepidoptera (Large White Butterfly (Pieris brassicae)).
The pods are covered by the corolla not falling in fruit, and these when the head is ripe fall off just round the plant. The seed is thus dispersed by the plant itself.
Like the Red Clover, White Clover requires a sand soil, never (or rarely) growing in humus soil as the former does.
Urophlyctis trifolii and Peronospora trifoliorum are fungi parasitic upon it. A beetle (Apion flavipes) and a hymenopterous insect (Colletes marginata) live on it.
Photo. Is. Hanley - White Clover (Trifolium repens, L.)
The second Latin name refers to its creeping habit. It is called Bloodwort, Claver, Clover, Dutch or White Clover, Curl-doddie, Fourleaved Grass, Sheep's Gowan, Purple Grass, Honeystalks, Honeysuckle Clover, White Honeysuckle, Lamb's Sucklings, Purple-wort, Quillet, Sucklers. The name Purple Grass is given to a cultivated form with dark-brown purple foliage.
Parkinson says of this:
The purple grasse spreadeth on the ground.
"The leaves are in some three, in others foure or five, on a stalke of a sad greene colour, with a shadow of darke purple cast over them, the flowers are white; I never saw this but in gardens where women keepe it with confidence to be good for the purples in children or others." This is a good instance of the absurd "doctrine of sigfna-tures" then in force.
"Honeystalks" are clover flowers "which contain a sweet juice". Cattle sometimes overcharge themselves with clover and die.
Words more sweet, and yet more dangerous, Than baits to fish, or honeystalks to sheep.
Shakespeare, Titus Andronicus.
Lambs were fed on clover, hence the name Lamb's Sucklings. As a fodder plant it is valuable, and it spreads and roots widely, being-permanent, unlike the Red Clover. A square yard is quickly covered by a plant in one year. The seeds have been used in times of famine for making bread. The hive bee seeks its honey from this clover.
Essential Specific Characters: 81. Trifolium repens, L. - Stems creeping, leaflets obovate, serrate, flowers white, in round heads, fruit-stalks deflexed after flowering, peduncles axillary, longer than the leaves, legumes 4-seeded.