Short-lived perennial. Introduced from Europe. Everywhere. The State flower of Vermont. April-November.
Coarse, leafy, branching, more or less hairy, six inches to two feet high, growing in tufts.
Compound, of three leaflets; leaflets oval or obovate, often notched at the apex and narrowed at the base, where they unite at the same point; margins entire, and surface marked with whitish triangular spots; the joints are sheathed with a pair of bristly, pointed stipules.
In heads, rose-purple, fading with age.
Persistent, five-cleft, the teeth like bristles.
Papilionaceous, elongated, tubular, the petals having grown together.
Ten; nine with filaments united, one more or or less separate.
One, producing a small pod. Pollinated by bumblebees. Nectar-bearing.
"I wonder what the Clover thinks? Intimate friend of Bobolinks, Lover of Daisies slim and white, Waltzer with Buttercups at night; 127
"Comrade of winds, beloved of sun, Kissed by the dewdrops one by one; Prophet of Good-luck mystery By sign of four which few may see; Symbol of nature's magic zone, One out of three and three in one.
"Sweet by the roadsides, sweet by rills, Sweet in the meadows, sweet on hills, Sweet in its white, sweet in its red - Oh, half its sweet cannot be said; Sweet in its every living breath, Sweetest, perhaps, at last in death.
"Oh, who knows what the Clover thinks? No one! Unless the Bobolinks!"
- Helen Hunt.
The Red Clover is the common Clover that every one knows, grown everywhere throughout the north for hay and pasturage. It is so common that we are likely to disregard its beauty, but a bouquet of Clover blossoms is one of the most beautiful of the wild.
The plant was long believed to be a biennial, but is now known to be a short-lived perennial. At what time it came into general cultivation in this country-is not definitely known, but records show that there were fields of it prior to the American Revolution. The blossom is fragrant and the corolla tubes full of nectar, but only the bumblebee has a proboscis long enough to reach this. The honey-bees have grown wise enough to bite through the corolla to reach the nectar, but they do not in this way pollinate the flower. The bumblebee, going from Clover head to Clover head, gets her velvety body sprinkled thickly with golden dust. In reaching the nectar, which lies down deep in the long purple tubes, she crawls all over the blossom head and some of the pollen which has clung to her breast and legs is sure to be left upon the stigmas. She has also brushed against the anthers and taken a fresh supply of pollen with which she may fly to another Clover head. Deprived of her visits, the Red Clover would not set a single seed, for the blossom tubes are too deep for the little honey-bee.
The history of Australia's experience with Red Clover is both interesting and illuminating: Clover seed was sent to Australia; it did well there but failed absolutely to produce seed. This continued until some one suggested it might be well to import a number of bumblebees, which was done, and the blossoms, then being fertilized, produced seed. This is one of the most direct proofs of the dependence of plants upon insects and the interrelations of the two.
Our cultivated fields give no more beautiful sight than the Red Clover in bloom, and those who as children sucked the nectar stored in the slender, tubular florets can sympathize with James Whitcomb Riley when he asks:
Leaf of Red Clover. Trifolium pratense
"What is the lily, and all of the rest Of the flowers to a man with a heart in his breast, That was dipped brimmin' full of the honey and dew, Of the sweet clover blossoms his babyhood knew?"
As a crop to plough under Red Clover is valuable at the north because of its deep root system and its power of fixing the nitrogen of the air through the bacteria in the nodules borne by the roots.