A fallen autumn-gold Catalpa leaf is a momentary backdrop for a Common Clover’s shadow. As the morning sun continues its passage through the sky this profile will shortly be a recollection.
Soon the ground will be covered with the colors of fallen autumn leaves, blanketing clover and grass. Gradually the leaves will transform into mulch for next spring’s reawakening of Lincoln Park’s greens.
Sharing a pretty “weed”, the common White Clover (Trifolium repens). Pretty in the park lawn as well as in chain links as necklaces.
Eyeing these in a lawn can make girls giggle as they recognize the lovely ingredients for a summer chain necklace. An annoying weed is how many adults refer to Whte Clover (Trifolium repens). Upon purchase of our first home and lawn, my mother passed on her learned wisdom from her grandfather: “Clover in the lawn is good, it’s a sign of nitrogen in the soil”.
Pa was my mother’s mother’s father. I knew him as a retired teacher and accountant who lived in the country, grew apricots and was talented at making teetering towers of dominoes. As a young child I never appreciated his gardening expertise. Thank goodness he handed down his wisdom to my mother.
Twenty six Aprils ago my mother came to town to help me restore my new home’s yard. We cleared overgrown shrubs, filled divots in the lawn, added fresh top soil mixed with peat, and sewed fresh grass seed. Before seeding we pulled Lily of the Valley out of the lawn, but when I began to remove the White Clover my mother stopped me. I was surprised because my mother’s lawn has always been a major source of pride for her in the neighborhood; now she was encouraging me to grow weeds. White Clover (trifolium repens),the three leaved spreading Eurasian weed, was to remain in my new lawn.
Her advice, from Pa’s learning was that clover in a lawn is evidence of healthy soil; so clover in a lawn is a good thing. It was suggested by a naturalist to me once that perhaps Pa just wasn’t able to rid his lawn of clover. He might have stretched truth to save his image with his granddaughter, my mom. I have learned that his advice is indeed worthy of consideration as White Clover is a valued addition with grass seeds in new lawns. The clover helps control erosion and will enrich poor soil.
- White clovers are good for lawns since nodules on the roots fix nitrogen from the air. Actually, up to 1/3 the nitrogen your lawn needs can be obtained from white dutch clover! (source: www.outsidepride.com)
To this day my mother cannot pass a patch of White Clover without looking for the rare lucky four-leaf clover; a favorite pastime of many children. My fondness of White Clover was sealed after making my first successful clover chain necklace. This popular cover crop is valued as a high protein source for grazing animals including the neighborhood Eastern Cottontail (Sylvilagus floridanus). I welcome the bright white clovers in my lawn for my pleasure, my soil’s richness, and as a healthy treat for welcome wild guests.
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.