A range of flowers in Colins Paddock

Map of the Down

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Wild flowers at Magog Down prev  :  next

Red and White Clover - Trifolium pratense & Trifolium repens

cloverRed and white clovers are sufficiently well known to need no description. Both are perennial plants, the white species being prostrate and enabled to spread vegetative by its habit of rooting at the leaf nodes. Being members of the Pea Family (Leguminosae), clovers provide the farmer with a valuable source of nitrogen as nodules on their roots are home to bacteria which fix the element from the plentiful supply in the atmosphere.

Of the many dialect names by which clovers have been known, “honeystalks” and “lamb-sucklings” are amongst the most descriptive. The origin of the former will be obvious to anyone who has sucked the nectar from a clover flower, and the latter highlights white clover’s value as a feed for sheep.

In Titus Andronicus Shakespeare has Queen Tamora boast that she

will enchant the old Andronicus
With words more sweet, and yet more dangerous,
Than baits to fish or honey-stalks to sheep,
When as the one is wounded with the bait,
The other rotted with delicious feed.

But sheep will thrive in a clover-rich pasture, so why should Shakespeare refer to the plant as “dangerous”? Certain strains of white clover contain a cyanogenic glycoside which, when the plant is eaten, is converted to prussic acid - not the most healthful of dietary additives! But glycoside poisoning is rare. It is more likely that the country-born bard was thinking of the “bloat” which can affect (sometimes kill) sheep if they gorge themselves too greedily when transferred from a poor pasture to a highly palatable, clover-rich one.

David Yarham
May 2003

See also...

Report of the visit from Cambridge Natural History Society in August 2017


News about a visit by the local branch of Butterfly Conservation charity taking place in August 2016


News about the very special area of Colin's Bank, published in February 2015

Pasque Flower

One of our Friends sent us this beautiful picture of some Pasque Flowers taken in amongst the Cowslips in May 2016.pasqueflower_jb_may2016_crop_453

Photo by Jill Butler