Common Name : Red Clover
Habitat : Trifolium pratense is native to Europe, including Britain, from Norway south and east to Spain and W. Asia. It grows on the meadows, pastures and other grassy places, especially on calcareous soils. Usually found on circumneutral soils.
It is an herbaceous, short lived perennial plant, variable in size, growing to 20–80 cm tall. The leaves are alternate, trifoliate (with three leaflets), each leaflet 15–30 mm long and 8–15 mm broad, green with a characteristic pale crescent in the outer half of the leaf; the petiole is 1–4 cm long, with two basal stipules. The flowers are dark pink with a paler base, 12–15 mm long, produced in a dense inflorescence.
The plant was named Trifolium pratense by Carolus Linnaeus in 1753. Pratense is Latin for “found in meadows”.
There are seven varieties:
Trifolium pratense pratense – widespread
Trifolium pratense americanum – southeastern Europe (despite the name)
Trifolium pratense frigidum – mountains of central and southern Europe (Pyrenees, Alps, Balkans)
Trifolium pratense maritimum – southern Baltic Sea coast.
Trifolium pratense parviflorum – Europe.
Trifolium pratense sativum – Mediterranean region, robust-growing, with hairless or nearly hairless foliage
Trifolium pratense villosum – Alps, densely hairy foliage.
In northeastern United States and Canada, and at higher elevation in southeastern and western United States, red clover grows as a biennial or short-lived perennial; at lower elevations in southeastern United States, it grows as a winter annual, and at lower elevation in western United States and Canada, it grows under irrigation as a biennial. Most red clover is spring seeded in a crop of fall- or spring-sown small grain. In the early spring the soil alternately freezes and thaws, thus covering the seed with soil. The small grain holds weeds in check while the clover is getting started. At lower elevations in southeastern and western United States, red clover is sown ca Oct. 15, no later than Dec. 15. In these areas it is most frequently sown without a companion crop. In south-eastern United States, late-summer seedlings can be successful on a seedbed, fallowed to prevent weed growth. Grass is extensively seeded with red clover. Clover-grass mixtures are usually superior to clover. In vitro and vivo experiments show that some lines of red clover perform better with ryegrass (Lolium multiflorum). Clover-grass yields better hay that cures more rapidly than pure clover hay. Animals are more likely to bloat on pure clover than on clover-grass pasture. Timothy has a high yield, and is ready to cut for hay with the red clover. Sow the grass in the early fall in the small-grain crop; sow the red clover in the small grain-grass in the spring. When the grain is harvested, remove the straw and stubble, as they tend to smother the clover and favor disease. Clover-hay yields from fields where the straw and stubble have been left are only about one-half as large as the yields from fields where they have been removed immediately after combining. Small-grain companion crops compete with red clover for mineral nutrients, moisture, and light. This competition can be reduced by grazing or clipping the small grain in late winter or early spring, just before stems begin growth., Grazing or clipping after clover stems have begun to branch will reduce small-grain yield.
The first year, graze or mow the clover 4 to 6 weeks before the first frost in the fall. If the stand is mowed, remove the clippings unless the total amount is quite small. The first crop of red clover, harvested early the second year is almost always harvested for hay or silage. In early bloom, red clover is leafy and produces its largest yield of protein per hectare. Cut red clover about 15 days after the first blooms appear. Cut stands grown with grass when clover is ready, not when grass is ready. Usually the second crop of red clover is pastured, harvested for seed, or grown for soil improvement and green manure. To harvest for hay, cut in early bloom; however, hay from this crop is occasionally unpalatable to cattle and sheep. A medium stand of red clover will produce two or three crops of hay the harvest year. Mammoth clover will produce one crop. After the crop is cut, allow it to wilt in swath and then rake it into small, loose windrows. It will cure about as rapidly in the windrows as in the swath, and fewer leaves will be lost in baling. Better, it can also be forced-air dried, which preserves the green color, lessens leaf shattering, and practically eliminates spoilage. Red clover and red clover-grass mixtures are frequently ensilaged. These crops make good ensilage if they are wilted slightly before ensiled, or if carbohydrate or chemical preservatives are added as they are ensiled. Red clover is one of the best legume pasture plants for livestock and poultry. Red clover and red clover-grass mixture pastures can be grazed or they can be cut green and fed to livestock and poultry. Red clover is also one of the better legumes for renovating old pastures. Clip or graze the old pasture closely. Chop up the sod with a disk or harrow before sowing the red clover seed. Red clover may be turned under as green manure to improve soil properties and increase yields of succeeding crops. Many crop rotations are possible for red clover, the oldest being a 3-year rotation of corn, oats or wheat and red dover. Other common rotations are: corn, soybeans, small grain, red clover; corn, small grain, red clover, rice, red clover; sugar beets, small grain, red clover; tobacco, rye or wheat, red clover-grass, grass, grass; potatoes, small grain, red clover. For seed production, the first crop of the second-year stand is usually harvested for hay or silage, the second crop may be harvested for seed. In most areas it is necessary to pollinate with bees, using 5 to 8 strong colonies of bees per hectare. Best seed yields occur when there is an abundance of bees, and soil fertility and moisture are adequate to promote good growth, and when the weather is warm and clear during the flowering period. Harvest the seed crop when the greatest number of seed heads are brown, usually 25–30 days after full bloom. Cut seed crop with mower. Let it cure in the swath or in small windrows. During rainy weather, the mowed crop cures better in swaths than in windrows. Windrowing is better during clear, warm weather because it reduces harvesting losses. Harvest the swathed or windrowed crops with a combine with a pickup attachment. Operate combine carefully to do a good harvesting job and to reduce harvesting losses. Artificial drying or drying by spreading seed thinly on a floor may improve the quality of the seed. Seed should be turned every few days until completely dry. Rough cleaning immediately after combining reduces the drying time and improves seed quality.
Seeds are reported to contain trypsin inhibitors and chymotrypsin inhibitors. Green forage of red clover is reported to contain: 81% moisture, 4.0% protein, 0.7% fat, 2.6% fiber, 2.0% ash. Hay of red clover contains 12.0% moisture, 11.8% protein, 2.6% fat, 27.2% fiber, and 6.4% ash. On the basis of more than 500 analyses, Miller (1958) reported the hay contained on a moisture free basis: 8.3–24.7% protein (avg 14.9%), 1.0–6.6% fat (avg. 2.9%), 12.5–39.3% crude fiber (avg. 30.1%), 3.1–14.0% ash (avg. 7.9), and 33.4–59.1% N-free extract (avg. 44.2). For green red clover forage he reported 12.4–34.87. protein (avg. 18.2), 3.2–5.9% fat (avg. 4.0%), 12.7–30.8% crude fiber (avg. 24.2), 7.0–13.6% ash (avg. 8.8), and 37.1–49.7% N-free extract (avg. 44.8%). The hay (dry matter averaging 87.7%) contained 0.97–2.29% Ca (avg. 1.61), 0.09–0.45% P (avg. 0.22), 0.57–2.67% K (avg. 17.6%), 0.24–0.81% Mg (avg. 0.45%), 0.001–0.185% Fe (avg. 0.013%), 9.9–17.6 ppm Cu (avg. 11.2 ppm), and 24.9–120.8 ppm Mn (avg. 65.6). The green forage contained 0.58–3.21% Ca (avg. 1.76), 0.24–0.53% P (avg. 0.29), 1.49–2.94% K (avg. 2.10%), 0.36–0.57% Mg (avg. 0.45), 0.016–0.032% Fe (avg. 0.03), 7.3-10-3 ppm Cu (avg. 8.8 ppm), 121–464 ppm Mn (avg. 159 ppm). The leaf-protein concentrate (59% protein) contains 6.4% arginine, 2.5% histidine, 5.4% threonine, 1.7% tryptophan, 9.5% leucine, 5.3% isoleucine, 1.7% methionine, 6.87. lysine, 6.1% phenylalanine, and 6.8%. valine. Estrogenic disorders have been reported in cattle grazing largely on red clover, apparently due to activity of the isoflavones formononetin, biochanin A, and to some small extent daidzein and genistein. the flowers contain a number of phenolic compounds: daidzein, genistein, isotrifolin, isorhamnetin, pratol, pratensol, trifolin, and an antifungal compound trifolirhizin. They also contain coumaric acid, hentriacontane, heptacosane, myricyl alcohol, and b-sitosterol. On a dry basis flowers yield 0.028% of an oil containing furfural (Duke, 1981a).
Edible Parts: Flowers; Leaves; Root; Seed.
Edible Uses: Condiment; Tea.
Leaves and young flowering heads – raw or cooked. The young leaves are harvested before the plant comes into flower, and are used in salads, soups etc. On their own they can be used as a vegetable, cooked like spinach.The leaves are best cooked. They can be dried, powdered and sprinkled on foods such as boiled rice. The leaves contain 81% water, 4% protein, 0.7% fat, 2.6% fibre and 2% ash. The seed can be sprouted and used in salads. A crisp texture and more robust flavour than alfalfa (Medicago sativa). The seeds are reported as containing trypsin inhibitors. These can interfere with certain enzymes that help in the digestion of proteins, but are normally destroyed if the seed is sprouted first. Flowers and seed pods – dried, ground into a powder and used as a flour. The young flowers can also be eaten raw in salads. Root – cooked. A delicate sweet herb tea is made from the fresh or dried flowers. The dried leaves impart a vanilla flavour to cakes etc.
Properties: Depurative* Antispasmodic* Diuretic* Expectorant* phytoestrogen* Tonic* Antifungal*
Medicinal Actions & Uses:
Common Uses: Bronchitis * Cancer Prevention * General Health Tonics * Menopause * Osteoporosis * Women’s Tonics *
Red Clover has been used traditionally to treat respiratory and skin problems, today it is of most interest in menopause(Red clover is often combined
with black cohosh in herbal formulas for menopause) and in the prevention of breast cancer because of its strong concentration of natural plant estrogen. Red clover’s phytoestrogens, the plant world’s equivalents of human female estrogen, preform functions in the body similar to those of natural and synthetic estrogens, relieving menopause and menstruation related problems and perhaps protecting against osteoporosis and cancer of the breast, colon and prostate. At the root of red clovers attributes are an impressive array of vitamins, and trace minerals in synergy with many active medical compounds.
Although red clover has a strong following among herbalists as a blood purifying alterative and anticancer agent and has been used safely and effectively for hundreds, if not thousands of years, little scientific study has been done.
Red clover contains isoflavones (estrogen-like compounds) which can mimic the effect of endogenous estrogen. The use of red clover to relieve menopausal symptoms has been shown to be sometimes ineffective, but safe. Red clover contains calcium and magnesium, which can relax the nervous system and improve fertility. Traditionally, red clover has been administered to help restore irregular menses and to balance the acid-alkaline level of the vagina to promote conception.
The isoflavones (like irilone and pratensein) from red clover have been used to treat the symptoms of menopause. It has also been reported that red clover has been used for a variety of medicinal purposes, such as bronchitis, burns, cancers, ulcers, sedation, asthma, and syphilis.
It is an ingredient in eight-herb essiac tea.
How to Use: Red Clover
Preparation Methods :Red clover makes an excellent tea, especially sweetened with clover honey. You can also take red clover as an extract, or in capsule form. Red clover is often combined with black cohosh in herbal formulas for menopause. Externally a cooled tea or poultice can be applied to dry, itching skin.
Safe in normal amounts, but consult a physician if you are pregnant or nursing. Pregnant animals have had miscarriages after grazing heavily on clover.
Dye; Green manure; Miscellany; Soil reclamation.
A yellow dye is obtained from the flowers. The plant makes a good green manure, it is useful for over-wintering, especially in a mixture with Lolium perenne. Deep rooting, it produces a good bulk. It is a host to ‘clover rot’ however, so should not be used too frequently. It can be undersown with cereals though it may be too vigorous. It is also grown with grass mixtures for land reclamation.
It is widely grown as a fodder crop, valued for its nitrogen fixation, which increases soil fertility. For these reasons it is used as a green manure crop. Several cultivar groups have been selected for agricultural use, mostly derived from var. sativum. It has become naturalised in many temperate areas, including the Americas and Australasia as an escape from cultivation.
Known Hazards : Diseased clover, even if no symptoms of disease are visible, can contain toxic alkaloids.
Disclaimer:The information presented herein is intended for educational purposes only. Individual results may vary, and before using any supplements, it is always advisable to consult with your own health care provider.
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