Trifolium hybridum
Alsike Clover
Fabaceae or Pea Family
2 to 8 inches tall - pink - very fragrant!
Full sun to part shade
Ordinary soil
Early Summer through Fall
Propagate by seed
Photos by Jane Hendrix

Alsike Clover has established itself along the unpaved shoulder of our road. Its deep taproot does not get damaged by the county snowplow and the plant seems to thrive on the dust-control chemicals that are sprayed on our gravel road throughout the summer and fall. It makes an attractive, fragrant border for Mountain View Experimental Gardens as well as provides food for hummingbirds and bees.

After the first flush of flowers have mostly turned brown, I trim back the plants to a tight, little bun. The plants resume growth and later rebloom. I put the trimmings, which are rich in nitrogen, into my compost pile.

Like the dandelion, clover is grossly misunderstood. It will be one of the first colonizers of disturbed ground. Its strong, probing taproot will break up soils compacted by machinery and vehicular traffic. The rhizo-bacteria that lives in nodules on the roots of clover will take free nitrogen gas from the soil air and transform it into soluble nitrates that can be used by both the clover and other species of plants. After a decade of encouraging my edging clover to grow, the gravelly shoulder now supports a large community of native wildflowers as well as a few dozen garden escapees.

Clover can be a pest in a formal garden and, indeed, I weed it out of my rock gardens lest it overtake and crowd out less aggressive species. But in an unmanaged area, clover shines - and its fragrance is divine!