Clover Flowers

Red Clover flower head

Red Clover flower head over leaves

I do have a soft spot for clovers - especially red clovers. Like dandelions and sunflowers, their colorful flower heads are actually filled with even tinier, intriguingly shaped little individual flowers - called florets.

Both red (Trifolium pratense) and white (Trifolium repens) clovers seem to survive mowing pretty well, so they stick around from year to year in the yard. Red clover tends to grow a little taller, so I usually only see the flowers if it's been a while between mowings or in an overgrown edge of the yard - though I do have to admit to transplanting one or two into a flowerbed to enjoy them better. Plus, they fix nitrogen from the air into nodules on their roots, so they're natural fertilizers for the other flowers! (...trying to feel a little more justified!)

Here's a closer look at the Red Clover florets:

Red Clover close-up

Red Clover florets

I know some folks consider them weeds, but I tend to side with Eeyore: "Weeds are flowers too, once you get to know them."

White Clover survives well in yards - it grows shorter than Red Clover, so mowing is less damaging. It also tends to form mats - adding roots where the nodes of the stems touch the ground.

White Clover flowers may have a simpler beauty, but a closer look shows their delicate forms and subtle blend of colors.

White Clover flower head

White Clover flower head

Clovers belong to the same family as Peas, and a close look a the individual florets shows the resemblance.

Close-up of white clover

A very close look at White Clover florets

Aside from the simple beauty sprinkled around our yards, clovers are an important food source for butterflies and bees, as well as livestock. Clover crops are often rotated with corn crops to build up the nitrogen content of the soil, saving on fertilizer costs and run-off into nearby waterways.