Clover as a Lawn

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Many homeowners are looking for alternatives to monoculture lawns. These areas though beautiful and great for recreation severe very little ecosystem services. They require high amounts of water, often leach nutrients, and provide little to no habitat for native fauna. They do however, prevent erosion to a certain degree, provide areas of open space, and sets the tone for the average American home in the 50’s and 60’s.

Today however, many people have little interest in lawns and see them as a sterile landscape serving little but human gratitude. This has led to the search of something ‘better’. Many people are looking to clover as the next lawn plant. Clover does bloom providing nectar, can take some treading on, and who doesn’t love looking for those lucky 4 leaved clovers? Clover does however, have a bad side. The common white clover of Trifolium repens is listed as invasive in the United State.

Trifolium ripens inflorescence. photo by Cathy Dewitt

Trifolium ripens inflorescence. Photo credit: Cathy Dewitt

These plants are native to Europe and spread rapidly here in the states. This is why we often see them very readily in our uncared-for lawns now. Often times when homeowners leave their lawns unattended many low growing plants move in. These plants can take mowing and often stay short. Things like dandelions, clover, some asters are common weeds to find in these areas. Very commonly these plants end up being identified as invasives.

Some native plants can withstand mowing. Yarrow is a common almost weedy native that can easily withstand consistent mowing. They form dense short areas of fern like foliage. If they are being mowed, they will not flower and likely will not be able to support any insect life long term.

Often the best approach is to meet in the middle. Perhaps you allow areas in your garden to grow and flower and mow only a pathway through the area to enjoy. Any monoculture is not providing much ecosystem services to the area it is in. Mowing often just exacerbates the issue further.

A mowed path through a native meadow. Not only does it provide a walkway but is also economically friendly.

A mowed path through a native meadow. Not only does it provide a walkway but is also economically friendly. Photo Credit: Kevin Foord 

A system where humans can co-exist with nature enjoying our lifestyles while also benefiting the other species around us is possible. We must get away from the desire for a large expansive space with no trees and a green ground cover. Whether it’s turf, clover, or yarrow these systems are not supportive to life outside our own in the United States. Allowing nature to have a space is critical to supporting our wild ecosystems.