Known as a friend of the farmer in need of a reliable cover crop, the Red Clover’s (Trifolium pretense) reputation changes when it appears in lawns to that of an uninvited guest. Michigan’s favorite cover crop is the Red Clover. It serves to increase organic matter and replace nitrogen in the soil after corn or small grain crops have exhausted the soil. Cursed as a weed, Red Clover is attacked with varieties of herbicides and digging-out methods by determined home-owners striving for the “perfect” lawn. A weed is any plant that is considered unwanted and like the saying goes, “one man’s trash is another’s treasure”, Red Clover falls into either category depending on one’s green space. I want to make note here that whether green lawn or farmland both of these habitats are man-made and non-native similar to the Red Clover’s official alien status.
The child in me remembers gently pulling a petal out of the round bloom and quickly sucking the bottom end to taste a single drop of sweet nectar. There is an art of carefully pulling out the petal so that you get the whole petal with that tiny sack of nectar at the base; pull too quickly and no nectar. The task was tedious and the reward was tiny, but decadent for the sweet loving child. Interestingly Red Clover is not a favorite of honey bees because of the long path to the nectar; bees aren’t able to easily harvest Red Clover nectar.
Friendly host to the Common Sulphur (Colias philodice) butterfly seen in this image, it is a favorite choice for egg laying as well as nectar dining.