Common name: Red clover
Scientific name: Trifolium pratense
Family: Fabaceae (Pea)
There are many species of native and introduced clovers in Ireland. Two are common and widespread – the White clover (Trifolium repens) and Red Clover (above).
Both white and red clover have the characteristic globular flower head of many small pea flowers, but they differ in colour and the shape of their leaves. White clover is a contender for being the true shamrock (seamr óg means “young clover”) and has leaves made up of 3 rounded leaflets. Red clover has more pointed leaflets again grouped in threes (Trifolium means three-leaved), frequently with slivery crescent-shaped markings on them.
Both clovers contain nectar, good for pollinators and thirsty walkers alike, as the nectar can be easily sucked from the flower as a sweet treat. (If the flower remains on the plant, it will refill with nectar in about 1 hour, so you’re only depriving the bees of nectar if you pick the flower!). Clover leaves are an edible protein-rich green, tasting better when cooked with additional flavours. The flowers can be added to breads, soups and stews; they look pretty broken up into salads and add a delicate pea-like flavour. Clover seeds can be ground up for use in bread (traditional in Switzerland) or sprouted.
The flowers of red clover are used to make a sweet-tasting tea to treat skin conditions like eczema and dermatitis, to clear lymphatic congestion and balance hormones.