Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Clover

Yesterday my older daughter (Windchime) told me that she thought that she had found another type of clover. She described to me a little yellow-flowered plant with clover-like leaves (she recognized them as such), and we looked it up, and she was right! I hadn't given much thought to that plant before then, but both my older children had noticed it, and it's encouraging to see them observing nature so closely and remembering and drawing conclusions from past things we have learned.

So far we have found four types of clover, none of them native to the Pacific Northwest (or North America), but the bees sure love them, and they are good for the soil. They are pretty little flowers, and when looked up close you can see amazing detail. Each flower head is made up of many tiny individual flowers, some with beautiful patterns. They are trifoliate plants, meaning their leaves are divided into three leaflets.

Small Hop Clover (Trifolium dubium)



The little yellow one we believe is called "small hop clover." Another name it goes by is "Lesser Hop Trefoil." It has small flowers, and I'll try later to post a picture taken from farther away so you can get more of an idea of it's size.

"Leaves held on short petioles along stems, divided into 3 egg-shaped leaflets. Flower head more or less spike-like. Flowers bright yellow, becoming brown and reflexing downward."
~ Pacific Northwest Flowers
(picture taken by my older son)


Red Clover (Trifolium pratense)



Wikipedia's page on Red Clover says that red clover is "native to Europe, western Asia and northwest Africa, but planted and naturalised in many other regions."

"At first glance, the bloom of the red clover may look like a single flower; but it is really a cluster of many tiny flowers, each projecting out from the center about 3/8 of an inch."
~ all-creatures.org
(picture taken by Windchime)


See how the leaves are right beneath the flower head?
(picture taken by my older son)


The leaves of the red clover almost always have a V-shaped white mark on it's leaflets, although sometimes the mark isn't distinct.
(picture taken by my older son)


See it's hairy stem? My son took this picture of very close to show the detail of the stem.
(picture taken by my older son)


"Red clover plant is an herb which when fully mature is about 16 inches tall, with straight, hairy stems, and leaves with three leaflets that are marked with a crescent shape."
~ Red Clover Herb - History and Information
(picture taken by me)


Alsike Clover (Trifolium hybridum)



Alsike Clover is a native of Europe. It was cultivated in Sweden as early as 1750 and was introduced into North America in about 1834. It gets its name from the Alsike parish of Sweden (Alsike Clover).

The flowers are pale pink or whitish. It's stems and leaves are smooth. The book Plants Of The Pacific Northwest Coast: Washington, Oregon, British Columbia & Alaska explains: "Alsike clover is the most similar to white clover, but it has more upright stems and pinker flowers; it is a hybrid between red and white clover" (page 196). While white clovers sometimes have a V-marking on the top surface of their leaflets, the leaves of the alsike clover are unmarked. It grows 1-2 feet tall (while white clover is only 2-4 inches tall). (See Wikipedia's page on alsike clover and Pacific Northwest Flower's page about white clover which mentions alsike clover.)

(picture taken by Windchime at Fort Steilacoom Park)


(picture taken by Windchime at Fort Steilacoom Park)


White Clover (Trifolium repens)



Even though it's called white clover, sometimes it is pinkish.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/White_clover
White Clover (Trifolium repens) is a species of clover native to Europe, North Africa, and West Asia. It has been widely introduced elsewhere in the world as a pasture crop, and is also common in many grassy areas in North America.

It is a herbaceous perennial plant. It is low growing, with heads of whitish flowers, often with a tinge of pink or cream. The heads are generally 1.5-2 cm wide, and are at the end of 7 cm peduncles or flower stalks [1]. The leaves are trifoliolate, smooth, elliptic to egg-shaped and long-petioled. The stems function as stolons, so white clover often forms mats with the stems creeping as much as 18 cm a year, and rooting at the nodes [1].
http://www.illinoiswildflowers.info/weeds/plants/white_clover.htm
It was introduced into the United States from Europe a long time ago as a source of forage and hay. Habitats include pastures, fields, grassy meadows, lawns, parks, mowed areas along roadsides, paths through woodlands, and waste areas. This plant prefers disturbed areas that are grassy and subject to occasional mowing or grazing. In more natural areas, it is not tall enough to be very competitive with the native vegetation.
(picture taken by Windchime at Fort Steilacoom Park)


(picture taken by Windchime at Fort Steilacoom Park)


See the pretty detailed patterns on the individual flowers of the flowerhead and how they look so beautiful together?
(picture taken by Windchime at Fort Steilacoom Park)


(picture taken by my older son in our yard)


The leaflets of the white clover sometimes have a V-shaped whitish mark on the top of each one.
(picture taken by my older son in our yard)


There are a couple other pictures of white clover here: http://pnwnature.blogspot.com/2009/06/some-pretty-photos-from-past-two-days.html

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