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.
No traces of this have been discovered where seeds have been found in Glacial beds. It is spread over the Northern Temperate Zone, in Arctic Europe, North Africa, North and West Asia, India, and has been introduced into North America. In Great Britain it is found in every part of the country northwards to the Shetland Isles. It also ascends to 1900 ft. in the Highlands, and it occurs in Ireland and the Channel Islands.
The wild red or purple clover is essentially a meadow plant, associated with Self-heal, Bugle, Bird's Foot, Milkwort, and a hundred other meadow species. In some places, especially sandy districts, the banks are luxuriantly clothed with this widespread Trefoil. It nourishes on clay, gravel, or sand, and its honey-bearing heads attract attention from their beauty and the fragrance they emit along the roadside and on pastures.
The Red Clover is more or less erect in habit. The stems are either solid or hollow, and slender or stout, the whole plant more or less downy. The leaves are trifoliate, with leaflets in threes. The leaflets are oblong, blunt, with a white spot or crescentic band, finely toothed, notched, the upper entire, with a blunt point. The stipules are membranous, with long bristle-like points, closely pressed to the leaf-stalk, the free part blunt, egg-shaped, the veins branched and crossing.
The flowerheads are dense, stalkless or with a short stalk, egg shaped, terminal, at length round, with opposite leaves below. The florets are pink, purple, or dirty white. The calyx is strongly ten-veined, hairy above, not half as long as the corolla, with a two-lipped contraction in the throat, the five teeth not longer than the corolla, slender and unequal, four nearly equal to the tube, the lower twice as long, fringed with hairs. The pod opens by the falling off of the top.
Photo. Holmes - Red Clover (Trifolium pratense, L.)
Red Clover is rarely more than 1 ft. high, and flowers from May to September. It is perennial, and may be increased by division.
The tube is long, 9 - 10 mm., and is not accessible as a rule to short-lipped bees such as the Honey Bee, which gets its supply of honey from the White Clover. The tube is formed by the cohesion of the nine inferior stamens with each other, and with the claws of the petals (keel, and base of the wings and standard or vexillum). The honey, which is abundant, lies at the base of the stamens, and is accumulated round the base of the ovary in the tube. The bee thrusts its head under the vexillum and into the staminal tube, and if the superior stamen were united with the others to form a tube the insect's proboscis would come in contact with it; but only its two ends are in the middle line, the rest lying on the side throughout its whole length. At the anterior end of the tube lie the broad base of the standard, continuous with the superior and lateral portion of the tube and with the inferior part by an expansion at the base of the free limb, and also the base of the carina attached to the inferior part of the tube in the interval left by the standard, which returns at once to its position after it has been depressed. The two alae with flexible claws, with a lamina expanded at the base, cover the top of the tube, and keep it and the petals in position. The two alae and the staminal tube also (like the vexillum and carina) come off from the anterior end of the common tube, the tube, as has been seen, being split superiorly to include the free tenth stamen, dividing into stiff filaments curving upwards, thickened at the end.
The style lies in the centre of the tube, curving upwards, the stigma exceeding the anthers. The bee clings on to the alae and rests the middle and hind legs lower down, the keel and alae are depressed, and the stigma and anthers touch the bee's head below. Pollen brought from elsewhere is deposited on the stigma by the bee. The bee is then dusted afresh with pollen from the anthers, and cross-pollination follows. As the bee withdraws from the flower it may touch the stigma with some of the pollen just applied, and cause self-pollination. The pod opens at the top, allowing the 1 - 4 seeds to fall out.
The visitors are Apidae, Diptera (Bombyliidae, Syrphidae, Conopidae), Lepidoptera - Large White (Pieris brassicae), Small White (P. rapae), Small Tortoise-shell (Vanessa urticae), Wall Butterfly (Satyrus (Par-arge) megaera), Meadow Brown (S. (Epinephele) janira), Large Skipper (Augiades (Hesperia) sylvanus), the Small Skipper (Adopaea (H.) thaumas), Silver Y Moth (Plusia gamma).
Red Clover is above all others addicted to a sandy habitat, requiring a sandy soil. It is found on Keuper Marl, Lias, Boulder Clay, etc.
Several fungi infest it: Urophlyctis trifolii, Peronospora trifolii, Sclerotinia trifoliorum (Clover Sickness), Pseudopeziza trifolii, Gleo-sporium caulivorum, Macrosporium sareniae formis; and it is galled by Ceeidomyia trifolii. The beetles Sitones lineatus, Apion virens, Phyto-nomus meles; the moths Leucophasia Sinapis, Zygaena trifolii, Lasio-campa trifolii, Eulalia bipunctaria, Eubolia palumbaria, Stigmonita compositella, and the Hemipterous Orthocephalus saltator feed on Red Clover in one form or another.
Trifolium (Pliny) is from the Latin tres, three; folium, leaf, hence trefoil; and pratense alludes to its meadow habitat. Clover is from A.S. alcefer, Belg. klaver, from A.S. cleafan, to cleave. It is called Beebread, Broad Clover, (Broad, Meadow, Red, or Soukie) Clover, Clatter Malloch, Clover-grass, Cob, Cock's-head, Cow-clover, Cow-grass, Honey-suck, Honeysuckle Trefoil, Knap, Marl-grass, Plyvens, Shamrock, Sleeping Maggie, Sookies, Suck-bottle, Suckies, Sucklers, Suckles, Sucking Sugar Plums.
Under that tree, and on the suckler brae,
Where oft we wont, when bairns, to run and play.
Though called Beebread the hive bee does not visit it. The name Soukie Clover is given because children suck the flowers for honey. In Virginia it was said to have sprung from the blood of men slain in battle. It is a talisman to detect fairies: