White clover seeded itself into our driveway cracks, so I took photos yesterday, the better to learn it.
Each flower is flowers: a globe of up to 50 tiny flowers, each with “a small standard and two side petals that enclose the keel.” So says Illinioswildflowers.info.
Standard? Like a flag?
Glossary says of standard: “the usually adaxial petal in the flower of the Papilionaceae family.“
Adaxial? What the?
Glossary says: “towards the axis, referring to the surface of an organ that is furthest from the axis in bud.”
Which means that the tall bit of each individual flower is the arrow-shaped standard raised over the keel which is sandwiched by two small petals. Which means something very Georgia O’Keefe.
I love Illinioswildflowers.info, but I think a clearer description is simply
Banner, Wings and Keel.
White clover = Trifolium repens
Have you noticed white clover is suddenly everywhere? Now I know why it can cover even hard-packed, naked patches where our dog galloped through the yard all winter. The stems grow up to 12″ long—sideways—and at each node it can take root: even into dirt pounded bare. “Repens” means creeping, and clover creeps. Fine by me if it keeps the backyard from melting into the storm drain. Nectar and pollen are a bonus. As are clover necklaces.
“Trifolium” needs no glossary. Tri + folium = three leaves. Clover has leaves of three leaflets, unless it has four and in which case I will not see it. Four-leafed clover supposedly happens once per 10,000 plants: a likely ratio when I think how I’ve never found one, but an unlikely ratio when I think how other people (hello, Jean Lester) seem to find them quickly and often.
White clover isn’t native, but I don’t care. It’s a good nectar source for anything that needs it; clover honey is divine; clover transfers nitrogen from the air to the soil; leaves, flowers and seeds are food for some birds and mammals; and its non-native, “common” status means we can make all the jewelry we wish.
If you’ve forgotten how to make clover necklaces, crowns and bracelets, now is the time to remember.
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P.S. Papilionaceae is a family of plants with butterfly shaped coronas. (Papil, papilio = butterfly.) It’s a synonym for Fabaceae: the bean family, and includes clovers, redbud, peas and our lovely black locust.