A little here, a little there, Dutch white clover everywhere!
Scientific Name: Trillium repens
Other Common Names: Dutch white, New Zealand White, ladino
USDA Hardiness: 4
Useful Properties: livestock forage, nitrogen fixer, pollinator attractor, cover crop, shade tolerant, traffic tolerant
There's a reason Dixie likes to make a bed in it on a hot day. Generally low-growing and soft-textured, white clover helps maintain a cooler and often moister microclimate near the ground. In fact, this little plant has so many great attributes, it's hard not to love it!
White clover comes in several varieties and they are often categorized based on height. The lowest growing types (like wild white) do the best with traffic. Intermediate sizes like Dutch white and New Zealand white are more common; they flower earlier and more profusely and are comparatively more heat tolerant. The Ladino's are even taller and are great forage and produce the most nitrogen per acre.
What? Nitrogen? Yep. These little beauties form symbiotic relationships with bacteria and literally make fertilizer out of the air. Pretty cool stuff! Just cut them back and all that airy goodness improves your soil and helps out other plants.
As an added bonus, grazing animals dig it. I think it might be our chickens' favorite food; rabbits devour it. Pretty much anything that grazes likes clover. White clover also stays essentially herbaceous -- it doesn't get woody and lose palatability like sweet clover.
Now think way back, like back to when you were a kid. Ever step on a honey bee and get stung? If so, there's a pretty good chance you were in a patch of clover at the time. (Remember we're talking honey bees here, so not that yellow jacket you stepped on that was feasting on a spilled Mello Yellow by the side of the pool.) White clover is a good nectar producer and makes a nice, clean-tasting, relatively light honey. Plus, anything we can do to keep pollinators in our landscapes is a good thing.
White clover likes a little moisture to be at it's best, but we've been surprised how well it's done even on the drier parts of our site. It just tends to grow taller and more lush when it has moisture and lower and tighter without water. It tolerates some shade reasonably well and light traffic doesn't bother it --- and that's good because otherwise the dogs ripping circles in it and rolling around would cause big bare spots!
There's very little not to like about this plant! Just go grab a handful, or better yet a bagful, and grow yourself a 70's vintage shag green carpet!