Clover

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"Alsike" and "Trifolium" redirect here. For the Swedish locality, see Alsike, Sweden. For the Canadian locality, see Alsike, Alberta. For the trematode parasite, see Cladocystis trifolium.
For the mobile dating application, see Clover (application).
For other uses, see Clover (disambiguation).
Clover
Trifolium April 2010-2.jpg
Trifolium sp. (clover)
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Plantae
(unranked): Angiosperms
(unranked): Eudicots
(unranked): Rosids
Order: Fabales
Family: Fabaceae
Subfamily: Faboideae
Tribe: Trifolieae
Genus: Trifolium
L.
Subgenera and Sections[1][2]

subg. Chronosemium
subg. Trifolium

sect. Glycyrrhizum
sect. Involucrarium
sect. Lupinaster
sect. Paramesus
sect. Trichocephalum
sect. Trifoliastrum
sect. Trifolium
sect. Vesicastrum
Synonyms

Amoria C. Presl[3]
Bobrovia A. P. Khokhr.[3]
Chrysaspis Desv.[3]
Lupinaster Fabr.[3]
Ursia Vassilcz.[3]
Xerosphaera Soják[3]

Clover (Trifolium), or trefoil, is a genus of about 300 species of plants in the leguminous pea family Fabaceae. The genus has a cosmopolitan distribution; the highest diversity is found in the temperate Northern Hemisphere, but many species also occur in South America and Africa, including at high altitudes on mountains in the tropics. They are small annual, biennial, or short-lived perennial herbaceous plants. The leaves are trifoliate (rarely 5- or 7-foliate), with stipules adnate to the leaf-stalk, and heads or dense spikes of small red, purple, white, or yellow flowers; the small, few-seeded pods are enclosed in the calyx. Other closely related genera often called clovers include Melilotus (sweet clover) and Medicago (alfalfa or 'calvary clover'). The "shamrock" of popular iconography is sometimes considered to be young clover. The scientific name derives from the Latin tres, "three", and folium, "leaf", so called from the characteristic form of the leaf, which has three leaflets (trifoliate); hence the popular name trefoil. Clovers are used as food plants by the larvae of some Lepidoptera (butterfly and moth) species; see list of Lepidoptera that feed on clovers.

Cultivation[edit]

Several species are extensively cultivated as fodder plants. The most widely cultivated clovers are white clover Trifolium repens and red clover Trifolium pratense. Clover, either sown alone or in mixture with ryegrass, has for a long time formed a staple crop for soiling, for several reasons: it grows freely, shooting up again after repeated mowings; it produces an abundant crop; it is palatable to and nutritious for livestock; it fixes nitrogen, reducing the need for synthetic fertilizers; it grows in a great range of soils and climates; and it is appropriate for either pasturage or green composting.

In many areas, particularly on acidic soil, clover is short-lived because of a combination of insect pests, diseases and nutrient balance; this is known as "clover sickness". When crop rotations are managed so that clover does not recur at intervals shorter than eight years, it grows with much of its pristine vigor.

Clover sickness in more recent times may also be linked to pollinator decline; clovers are most efficiently pollinated by bumblebees, which have declined as a result of agricultural intensification.[4] Honeybees can also pollinate clover, and beekeepers are often in heavy demand from farmers with clover pastures. Farmers reap the benefits of increased reseeding that occurs with increased bee activity, which means that future clover yields remain abundant. Beekeepers benefit from the clover bloom, as clover is one of the main nectar sources for honeybees.

Photo of clover leaf taken with a microscope at 60x magnification.

T. repens, white or Dutch clover, is a perennial abundant in meadows and good pastures. The flowers are white or pinkish, becoming brown and deflexed as the corolla fades. T. hybridum, alsike or Swedish clover, is a perennial which was introduced early in the 19th century and has now become naturalized in Britain. The flowers are white or rosy, and resemble those of the last species. T. medium, meadow or zigzag clover, a perennial with straggling flexuous stems and rose-purple flowers, is of little or no agricultural value.

Other South African species are: T. arvense, hare's-foot trefoil; found in fields and dry pastures, a soft hairy plant with minute white or pale pink flowers and feathery sepals; T. fragiferum, orange clover, with hot-grounded, globose, rose-purple heads and swollen calyxes; T. procumbens, hop trefoil, on dry pastures and roadsides, the heads of pale yellow flowers suggesting miniature hops; and the somewhat similar T. minus, common in pastures and roadsides, with smaller heads and small yellow flowers turning dark brown.

Symbolism[edit]

Shamrock, the traditional Irish symbol, which according to legend was coined by Saint Patrick for the Holy Trinity, is commonly associated with clover, though sometimes with Oxalis species, which are also trifoliate (i.e., they have three leaves).

Clovers occasionally have leaves with four leaflets, instead of the usual three. These four-leaf clovers, like other rarities, are considered lucky. Clovers can also have five, six, or more leaves, but these are rarer. The record for most leaves is 56, set on 10 May 2009.[5] This beat the 21-leaf clover,[6] a record set in June 2008 by the same man, who had also held the prior Guinness World Record of 18.[7]

A common idiom is "to be (live) in clover", meaning to live a carefree life of ease, comfort, or prosperity. This originally referred to the fact that clover is fattening to cattle.[8]

The cloverleaf interchange is named for the resemblance to the leaves of a (four-leafed) clover when viewed from the air.

Selected species[edit]

The genus Trifolium currently has 245 recognized species:[1]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b "Species Nomenclature in GRIN". Retrieved 2010-08-04. 
  2. ^ [1]
  3. ^ a b c d e f "Genus Nomenclature in GRIN". Retrieved 2010-07-09. 
  4. ^ Bumbles make beeline for gardens, study suggests Retrieved 27 November 2010.
  5. ^ "Most Leaves on a Clover". Guinness World Records. 2011. Retrieved 23 April 2011. 
  6. ^ 21-leaf Clover Sets Record. Neatorama. Retrieved 7 December 2008.
  7. ^ Clover - Most Leaves. Guinness World Record. Retrieved 7 December 2008. (illustrating a stem with eighteen leaflets discovered in Hanamaki City, Japan, in May 2002)
  8. ^ Oxford English Dictionary, s.v. "clover", Online Etymology Dictionary, s.v. "clover".

External links[edit]