Bee-friendly plants series: Sweet clover

Sweet clover is the bee plant of the week. It comes with white or yellow flowers. The stuff that grows wild, usually along the edges of roads, is white, but when I’ve bought seed to plant it has always been the yellow flower kind. It is a legume (nitrogen fixer) and deep rooted and brings nutrients from deep down up to the surface. It can be used as a green manure, but that involves mowing before blooming and that wouldn’t do the bees any good. It grows up to six feet high and gets its name from the sweet smell of its flowers. (See the poison pill in the factoid entry.) This is the time of year to see it, now through in to August. It is very popular with bumblebees and honeybees and helps them bridge the usual mid-summer dearth. They can make honey off this one. Returning from Amherst today I saw the DOT mowing the verges in Cumberland County and sweet clover was one of the casualties. Too bad. It would be a good plant for anyone who wants to enhance bees of all sorts, especially if you have a substantial area to dedicate to it. It is a biennial …plant it one year; it blooms the next. I checked some prices: OSC (Ontario Seed Company) – 2 kg for $18.99; Northstar Seeds in Sask. $2.99 a lb., but I have bought it locally. Toxicological factoid: The sweet smell comes from “coumarin” in the plant tissue, which, converted by fungi in decayed sweet clover hay, can be toxic to cattle. New cultivars are lower in coumarin and safer for cattle.

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Image may contain: plant, sky, tree, grass, outdoor and nature

Image may contain: plant, tree, flower, outdoor and nature

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