Nature on our doorsteps: Clever Clover
By Rosaleen Dwyer
Rosaleen Dwyer is the County Heritage Officer at South Dublin County Council – every week she gives us an insight into the natural heritage around us and the beautiful biodiversity of the plants and creatures
Most lawns are composed of a mix of grasses and other flowering wild plants. One of the most useful of these other plants is Clover.
Plants need nitrogen to grow and while nitrogen gas makes up about 78% of the air that we breathe, most plants cannot make use of this form of nitrogen.
Bumblebees and honeybees love nectar-rich Clover
Clovers, however, have overcome this problem by forming a partnership with a special type of bacteria that lives in little nodules or lumps along its roots.
These bacteria absorb nitrogen from the little pockets of air that occur in the soil, converting it into nitrate which is the form of nitrogen that plants need.
As Clover grows and its older leaves die and break down, nitrates are returned to the soil, benefitting nearby grasses and plants.
Because it makes its own nitrogen fertiliser, Clover can grow well even in poor soils.
It is also a hardy plant, staying green in the shade, surviving very dry situations, and competing well against other lawn ‘weeds’.
White Clover is in full bloom in lawns and grassy verges at the moment
Clover’s flowers are loved by honeybees and bumblebees, and the flavour of honey made from Clover is said to be excellent.
For those therefore who welcome a little colour in their lawns, patches of White or Red Clover offers many benefits, both for biodiversity and for us.
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