We have two very common clovers that can establish in lawns, especially if the ground is infertile.  The white or Dutch clover Trifolium repens and its close relative red clover Trifolium pratense were both first described by Turner in 1562 although he seems to have considered them colour variants of one species. 1.  
 
White clover has creeping roots and small rounded-oval trifoliate leaves, and the flowers are on long stalks.  Red clover is generally larger, with narrower oval trifoliate leaves, and the flowers are on very short stalks. To complicate matters red clover sometimes produces white flowers and white clover sometimes has a touch of pink.  White clover is known locally by names such as baa-lambs, honey-stalks, sucklers and (confusingly) honeysuckle . 2.  This refers to the sweetness that can be sucked from their nectaries.  Red clover has similar sweet-related names including honey-suckers and sugarplums. 3.  Culpeper considered both species useful against gout, eye problems and adder bite.4.
 
These common plants produce prolific nectar and so are a great magnet for bees. As they have nitrogen-fixing bacteria in root nodules, they grow well in poor soils, and before artificial fertilisers, white clover in particular was a vital element of field rotations to increase the fertility of cropland. With a long tap root they also tolerate drought well.  Despite their manifold virtues, clovers are often treated as a lawn weed.5.
 
Both clovers support large numbers of insect species as larval foodplants, including blue butterflies like the common blue Polyommatus icarus and the 5- and 6-spot burnet moths Zygaena lonicerae and Z. filipendulae.6.
 
There are 18 other native Trifolium species of which lesser trefoil Trifolium dubium (below) may turn up in the garden lawn. It is a wiry species with tiny trifoliate leaves and heads of small yellow flowers. Black medick is a closely related species that can be confused with clovers.
Clovers  Trifolium species
 
FamilyFabaceae, Pea family
Perennial – up to 50 cm tall, spreading
Flowering – May to September
Soils – Neutral
Sun  – Full sun or partial shade
References
 
1.  Pearman, D. (2017). The Discovery of the Native Flora of Britain and Ireland, A compilation of the first records for 1670 species and aggregates, covering Great Britain, Ireland, The Channel Isles and the Isle of Man. Botanical Society of Britain & Ireland. p 403
 
2.  Vickery, R. (2019). Vickery’s Folk Flora, An A to Z of the Folklore and Uses of British and Irish Plants. Weidenfeld & Nicolson. London.p701
 
3.  Vickery, R. (2019). (above) .p565
 
4.  Culpeper’s Complete Herbal ed. Steven Foster (2019) Sterling New York p 195-6
 
5.  RHS plant profile https://www.rhs.org.uk/advice/profile?pid=357
 
6.  See Biological Record Centre database here and here.
 
 
Page written by Camilla Lambrick, compiled by Steve Head
Red clover
White clover
Clovers  Trifolium species
 
FamilyFabaceae, Pea family
Perennial – up to 50 cm tall, spreading
Flowering – May to September
Soils – Neutral
Sun  – Full sun or partial shade
Clovers  Trifolium species
 
FamilyFabaceae, Pea family
Perennial – up to 50 cm tall, spreading
Flowering – May to September
Soils – Neutral
Sun  – Full sun or partial shade
We have two very common clovers that can establish in lawns, especially if the ground is infertile.  The white or Dutch clover Trifolium repens and its close relative red clover Trifolium pratense were both first described by Turner in 1562 although he seems to have considered them colour variants of one species. 1.  
 
White clover has creeping roots and small rounded-oval trifoliate leaves, and the flowers are on long stalks.  Red clover is generally larger, with narrower oval trifoliate leaves, and the flowers are on very short stalks. To complicate matters red clover sometimes produces white flowers and white clover sometimes has a touch of pink.  White clover is known locally by names such as baa-lambs, honey-stalks, sucklers and (confusingly) honeysuckle . 2.  This refers to the sweetness that can be sucked from their nectaries.  Red clover has similar sweet-related names including honey-suckers and sugarplums. 3.  Culpeper considered both species useful against gout, eye problems and adder bite.4.
 
These common plants produce prolific nectar and so are a great magnet for bees. As they have nitrogen-fixing bacteria in root nodules, they grow well in poor soils, and before artificial fertilisers, white clover in particular was a vital element of field rotations to increase the fertility of cropland. With a long tap root they also tolerate drought well.  Despite their manifold virtues, clovers are often treated as a lawn weed.5.
 
Both clovers support large numbers of insect species as larval foodplants, including blue butterflies like the common blue Polyommatus icarus and the 5- and 6-spot burnet moths Zygaena lonicerae and Z. filipendulae.6.
 
There are 18 other native Trifolium species of which lesser trefoil Trifolium dubium (below) may turn up in the garden lawn. It is a wiry species with tiny trifoliate leaves and heads of small yellow flowers. Black medick is a closely related species that can be confused with clovers.
White clover
Red clover
References
 
1.  Pearman, D. (2017). The Discovery of the Native Flora of Britain and Ireland, A compilation of the first records for 1670 species and aggregates, covering Great Britain, Ireland, The Channel Isles and the Isle of Man. Botanical Society of Britain & Ireland. p 403
 
2.  Vickery, R. (2019). Vickery’s Folk Flora, An A to Z of the Folklore and Uses of British and Irish Plants. Weidenfeld & Nicolson. London.p701
 
3.  Vickery, R. (2019). (above) .p565
 
4.  Culpeper’s Complete Herbal ed. Steven Foster (2019) Sterling New York p 195-6
 
5.  RHS plant profile https://www.rhs.org.uk/advice/profile?pid=357
 
6.  See Biological Record Centre database here and here.
 
 
Page written by Camilla Lambrick, compiled by Steve Head
       Garden Wildplants
             Garden Wildplants