Thursday, March 17, 2011

Clovers: The Good, The Bad, and the Ugly

Welcome to this week’s edition of Aloha Friday and Two Question Thursday

Happy St. Patricks Day!

It seemed a timely day to talk about clover. The clover is a symbol of Ireland, and of St. Patrick Day specifically as it is said that St. Patrick used it to explain the trinity to the Irish people.    Legend says that he would explain that just as the clover has three separate leaves and yet is one leaf, so the three persons of the Trinity (Father, Son, and Holy Ghost) are separate yet one.

In my yard here in Texas there are two kinds of which I like, and one which I'm not as fond of.

I don't have any of this kind of clover (White Clover), though it does grow in Texas...


...though I would love to have some, as you can make tea out of the blossoms and use the roots in soups.  However, probably the ones in Texas aren't the best for that, as clover grown in warm climate can contain cyanide (small amounts...but still).   Granted, it's a small amount, and probably no more dangerous than what you'ld find in almonds, spinach or soy  (surprize surprize...we can eat small amounts).  I've heard of many naturalists, including ones in the south, eating them with no harmful results.    Some people are allergic to clover too, so if you try some, even the safe clover from up north, try a small amount first.  Also, clovers should be eaten fresh or dried, never fermented.

Now, here's another clover clover that does bless my yard....

Yellow Wood Sorrel

This is actually, technically, a type of Wood Sorrel, not clover.  I've seen this plant in Texas with flowers in yellow, white, and light pink.  Yellow Wood-Sorrel (Oxalis Dillenii) The seed pods are edible in small quantities, but toxic in large amounts.  So, throwing a few in your salad is great (they are high in vitimin C) but don't eat them by the cup-full, and avoid them altogether if you have gout, rheumatism and kidney stones.

You can see a close up of the pods, to the right.

The "clover" below however, is not so nice (but not as bad as I used to think it was).

It's called Burr Clover for it's circular, spiky looking burs.  I USED to think that it was the culprit for these hard, painful spiky things that keep me from walking in my yard barefoot....but those are actually SANDBRS (also known as Goats Heads).   Sandburs are horrible because they are barbed in a way that makes them very painful to remove. You actually have to yank them out (which is hard to do without embedding them in your fingers)--you can't just pull them out gently because they're barbed like little hooks. I had assumed that "clover" burrs  hardened into those because I always seemed to pick up those burs when stepping through an area of my yard that was covered with them.  Turns out it was sandburs growing in the same area.  (sand burs just look like grass until they seed...horrid stuff).  Bur clover does catch in pet fur and clothing, but is more of a nuisance than a pain.

You can't just mow low to get rid of sand burs or bur clover  because bur clover creeps low to the ground and sand bur will just go to seed spikes lower down...and plus there's a good chance if you do mow over the taller one's you'll be planting them for next year.  . The best way to rid either of these from your yard is to pull them by hand.  For burr clover you can do this before they grow burrs, but unfortunately sand bur is hard to distinguish from other grasses so you may have to get them WHILE they have the spikes, which is a little tricky to do without getting hurt. I usually wear thick gloves, and once I've found the bur follow the stem to pull out from the the base (below the burrs).   Sometimes I just just clip the burrs off at the top and throw them into a bag, then use a long weeder to remove the base once they've been de-burred  (this is much easier to do if you let the dang things grown long, and don't mow them short).   After seeing a bunch of these you might start to recognize the shape and slight purple tinge on the base of this gastly grass, and so be able to uproot some of them before they produce burrs.

Sand burrs are a horrible plant and I really don't care if it does have any beneficial uses.

There's is a song I found called "Burr Clover Farm Blues", but it's about missing some farm with that name. I wrote a Burr Clover blues version back when I thought they were the culprit, not the sand burrs.  Here it is with "sand burr" now replacing "Bur Clover."

I got the Sand Burr Blues,
Makes me gotta wear shoes,
I try to get rid of it but
it grows tried and true.
I got the sand burr,
sand burr, sand burr blues.

Now for my questions...

  • What is the worst weed to curse your yard?
  • Do you have any weeds that you like?  That bless your yard?

Thanks!  If you have a blog and would like to post your own questions you can leave your link on the appropriate day at the linkys at 2 Questions Thursday and Aloha Friday.

Images listed as creative commons on Flickr by Burning Question, and Abbamouse. Illustration is public domain found here.


  1. So I have 'wood sorrel' instead of clover? SOUNDS much nicer! What are the little weeds with the purple flower heads? I recall picking bouquets of them as a child for my mother.....and of course I have received bouquets from MY children. They come back every year but the heat burns them out sooner or later. Milkweed is big in my yard and dandelions. WHY won't the grass grow as aggressively as the WEEDS???

  2. 1. I leave on a California dairy farm, so have too many weeds growing around us to name. Guess the worst is what my husband calls punchervine (spelling?). If you step on it after it has produced it thorns, oh does it hurt. If the cows eat it, they get sick and could die.
    2. I have some kind of wild flower that looks like alyssum from a distance that grows in my flowerbeds. I've tried to get rid of it for years, but for every one I pull out, there are four. So, I've given up and decided to enjoy them while in bloom. Sorry, I don't know the official names of these weeds. Maybe for as many of them as there are, I should find out.

  3. We have a lot of dandelions, and it seemed that they are always coming back stronger and longer.
    We recently been blessed with two fan palms. The seeds must have flown from the neighborhoods.

  4. I have patches of clover and wood sorrel around my yard, I let it grow because the honey bees like it.

    The one weed I have declared war on is the dandelion. It does have a pretty flower and I like to see it other places but not in my lawn.

  5. We have both the good clover and the bad clover - I hate the bad clover, because when the dogs get into it, it's a job to get those burrs out of their fur! :)

    Spring Awakening

  6. I live in an apartment complex so I don't really pay attention to weeds to be honest. But I will say that clover that blesses your yard is pretty!

  7. Well, I do not like the dandelions.
    I love the clovers

  8. nothing terrible, knock on wood!

  9. I have no idea what they are called but I despise all the weeds in my yard and wished I had just regular grass.

    Enjoy your weekend.

  10. I"m so not a gardener. I didn't even know there were different kinds of weeds! LOL!

  11. California is beginning to glow with fields of yellow Oxalis (sorrel) I like it as long as it stays out of my yard.
    The lovely natural are behind my yard sends its seeds my way, the plant I enjoy looking at across the knee wall become weeds on my side of the wall.

  12. You've photographed these beautifully! Right now my weeds are so green and are making my lawn look lovely, so I'm not mad at them yet!

  13. Ah, I'm afraid the photos aren't mine. I got them from flickr creative commons (which means the owner lets you use them with attribution).

  14. Anonymous10:43 PM

    "little weeds with the purple flower heads" could be henbit...if it flowers in late winter/early spring. *I* think it's pretty, it's green during the winter and had pretty purple flowers. If only it was the only "weed" in my landscape beds in the winter!

  15. I just love your post!!!

    Thanks for sharing....

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  16. Anonymous3:58 PM

    thank you for letting me know that there is good clover and bad cover with burs when they dry that hurt our feet. Los Angeles county, CA. I'll just try to get rid of the ones with the burs on them. Thank you for sharing.


    1. Margie, I'm so sorry. When I first posted this, I misspoke. I THOUGHT those were the cause of the spikey ones, but those were actually Sandburs (more like grass until they sprout) that were doing that. The others are still annoying cause they catch on clothes and get into pets hair, but the burr clovers lack the hard spikes. I thought I'd corrected it but I accidentally deleted a line which made things confusing. It's fixed now. :-)