Red Clover (Trifolium pratense)

Trifolium pratense, commonly known as Red Clover is a familiar grassland perennial that is common throughout the UK and Ireland. The stalkless flowering head is a cluster of 27 to 30 stemless tube-shaped magenta flowers that open outward in all directions. Its stature, dependant on the suitability of its environment can be as little as 20cm but can grow up to 80cm. The flowers are dark pink with a paler base and with so many on the Greenway, you can understand why red clover is a regular haunt for bees and butterflies.

Photo credit: Paul Hunter

In agriculture, red clover is used for fodder and crop rotation, valued (like its sibling - White Clover) for its nitrogen fixing properties which help enrich the soil. Despite the obvious colour difference (between red and white clover), it is their difference in habit that defines where they are grown. You will find the tall and upright red clover growing happily in undisturbed grassland or pasture, whereas the low growing and spreading lazier sibling ‘white clover’ will also tolerate mowing and can be grown for grazing. More commonly white clover, will be seen growing happily in your garden lawn. Both of them have the much characterised three leaves.

Photo credit: Jonathan Clark (@Belfastroadster)

As well as its wildlife and agricultural value, herbalists also revere red clover and for many years have claimed health benefits. These include detoxification, decongestion and reducing inflammation. Red clover is also regarded as an antioxidant and associated in some studies to combat certain types of cancer, including breast and prostate cancer. The isoflavones in red clover have been found beneficial in reducing bone loss and menopausal symptoms in healthy women. It is promoted as a treatment for coughs and disorders of the lymphatic system. It’s sibling; white clover cannot claim the same benefits.

Where to find it??

Red clover are in flower between May and October. You’ll find them growing in fields and in unmown verges. If you’re fortunate enough to be walking along the Greenway over the next while, you will find them growing throughout the wildflower areas, specifically The Hollow, Marsh-wiggle Way, Flora Street and Dixon Playing fields.

Be Part of it…

We would love to see your photos especially if you’ve spotted any red clover along the Greenway which show butterflies or bumblebees.  Don’t forget to let us know if there’s a particular plant on the Greenway you’d like to see featured on What’s Growing on the Greenway?