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In this book all the varieties of clover will be discussed that have hitherto been found of any considerable value to the agriculture of America. Varieties that are of but little value to the farmer will be discussed briefly, if discussed at all. The discussions will be conducted from the standpoint of the practical agriculturist rather than from that of the botanist. It is proposed to point out the varieties of clover worthy of cultivation, where and how they ought to be cultivated, and for what uses.
Definition of Clover.—According to Johnson's Encyclopædia, clover or trefoil is a plant of the genus Trifolium and the family Leguminose. The Standard Dictionary defines it as any one of several species of plants of the genus Trifolium of the bean family Leguminosa. Viewed from the standpoint of the American farmer it may be defined in the collective sense as a family of plants leguminous in character, which are unexcelled in furnishing forage and fodder to domestic animals, and unequaled in the renovating influences which they exert upon land. The term Trefoil is given because the leaves are divided into three leaflets. It is also applied to plants not included in the genus, but belonging to the same order.
The true clovers have their flowers collected into roundish or oblong heads and in some instances into cone-shaped spikes. The flowers are small and of several colors in the different varieties, as crimson, scarlet, pink, blue, yellow and white, according to the variety, and some are variously tinted. The stems are herbaceous and not twining. The seeds are inclosed in pods or seed sacks, each of which contains one, two and sometimes, but not often, three or four seeds. The plants have tap roots, and in some varieties these go far down into the sub-soil. The roots are also in some varieties considerably branched.
Varieties. —At least twenty varieties, native or naturalized, are found in Great Britain; more than twelve varieties belong to the United States. The more valuable varieties found in this country have been introduced from Europe, unless it be the small white clover (Trifolium repens). Viewed from the standpoint of the agriculturist the varieties that are most generally useful include medium red clover (Trifolium pratense), alfalfa (Medicago sativa), alsike (Trifolium hybridum), mammoth (Trifolium magnum), crimson (Trifolium incarnatum) and small white (Trifolium repens). The varieties which flourish only in the South include the Japan (Lespedeza striata) and the burr clover (Medicago denticulata). Sweet clover (Melilotus alba), sometimes called Bokhara, which will grow equally well North and South, is worthy of attention because of . its power to grow under hard conditions, in order to provide honey for bees and to renovate soils.
Other varieties may render some service to agriculture, but their value will not compare with that of the varieties named.
The most valuable of the varieties named in providing pasture, include the medium red, the mammoth, the alsike and the small white. The most valuable in providing hay are the medium red, alfalfa and alsike. The most valuable, viewed from the standpoint only of soil renovation, are the medium red, mammoth, alsike, crimson, Japan and sweet. The most valuable in producing honey accessible to tame bees, are the small white, alsike and sweet.
Distinguishing Characteristics.—Clovers differ from one another in duration, habit of growth, persistence in growth, their power to endure low or warm temperatures, and ability to maintain a hold upon the soil. Of the varieties named, alfalfa, the small white and alsike varieties are perennial. That most intensely so is the first variety named. The medium red and mammoth varieties are biennial, but sometimes they assume the perennial quality. Sweet clover is biennial. The crimson, Japan and burr varieties are annual. .
Some varieties, as alfalfa, crimson and sweet clover, are upright in their habit of growth. Others, as the small white and the burr, are recumbent. Others again, as the medium red, alsike and mammoth, are spreading and upright. The alfalfa and medium red varieties grow most persistently through the whole season. The sweet, small white and alsike varieties can best endure cold, and the sweet, Japan
and burr varieties can best endure heat. The small white, Japan, burr and sweet clovers stand highest in ability to maintain a hold upon the soil.
The minor points of difference are such as relate to the shape and color of the leaves, the tints of shade that characterize the leaflets, the shape and size of the heads and the distinguishing shades of color in the blossoms.
The characteristics which they possess in common are the high protein content found in them, the marked palatability of the pasture and hay, unless in the sweet and burr varieties, the power which they have to enrich and otherwise improve soils, and the honey which they furnish.
Plan of Discussion.—Chapter I., that is, the present chapter, as already indicated, is introductory, and outlines the nature, scope and plan of the work. Chapter II. deals with the general principles and facts which relate to the growing of clovers. A close study of these will, in the judgment of the author, prove helpful to those who engage in growing any of the varieties of clover discussed in the book. Chapters III. to XI. inclusive treat of individual varieties, a chapter being devoted to each variety. It has been the aim of the author to discuss them in the order of the relative importance which they bear to the whole country and to devote space to them accordingly.
The following varieties are discussed and in the order named: Medium Red clover, Alfalfa, Alsike, Mammoth, Crimson, Small White, Japan, Burr and Sweet. All of these varieties will be found worthy