clover, any plant of the genus Trifolium, leguminous hay and forage plants of the family Leguminosae (pulse family). Most of the species are native to north temperate or subtropical regions, and all the American cultivated forms have been introduced from Europe. Red clover ( T. pratense ), the state flower of Vermont, was the leading leguminous hay crop of the northeastern regions until it was surpassed by alfalfa. It is frequently seeded with timothy. Swedish, or alsike, clover ( T. hybridum ) is similarly used in the same area. The common white, or Dutch, clover ( T. repens ) is also cultivated at times but is considered a weed in fields and pastures, where it spreads rapidly. Its dried flower and seed heads were used for making bread during famines in Ireland and the leaves are eaten as salad in some parts of the United States. The clovers are excellent honey plants. Other plants are sometimes called clover, e.g., the related melilot, or sweet clover. Clover was used by the Greeks in garlands and other decorations. The druids held it sacred. It is said to have been the early emblem of Ireland from which the shamrock is derived, and it is an emblem of the Trinity. English and American poets have celebrated it. A four-leaved clover is thought to bring good luck. See also lespedeza; trefoil. Clover is classified in the division Magnoliophyta, class Magnoliopsida, order Rosales, family Leguminosae.
See bulletins of the U.S. Dept. of Agriculture.
The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.