While we wait for the rain to stop here in the NE, spring flowers brighten up our landscapes. The grass is an ‘Emerald City’ green. Bulbs rise, flower, come and go as we place seeds in the ground for early crops. Clovers will be coming up soon though I kinda take the little white clover blossoms for granted.
Botanical name: Trifolium repens
Common names: white clover, shamrock
Parts used: whole plant, Peterson’s field guides to medicinal plants states the entire plant can be used.
Uses: teas, washes for sores, ulcers, very popular in Europe. This plant was brought to our country with the early settlers during the 1600-1700’s. It’s short, a perennial and flowers from April to September with shamrock type leaves. As you can imagine, looking for four-leafed clover was and is considered a sign of good luck. In Europe, flower tea was used for rheumatism and gout. In North America, the Native Americans used the leaf tea for colds, coughs, and fevers.
Jethro Kloss, an American icon in the world of herbalism, lived from 1863 to 1946 and practiced herbal medicine. He used white clover blossoms in a tea to cleanse the system, especially if ulcers, boils or other skin ailments were present. He also noted that poultices, tea washes applied externally, helped heal sores, ulcers too.
White clover has been used for many years as a ground cover. It is useful as a ground cover for its nitrogen-fixing properties. There are nodules on the roots that literally grab nonusable nitrogen from the air and with the help of bacteria convert it into a plant usable form which is important for plant growth and provides protein source for foraging animals.
Benefits of White Clover: (from the University of Hawaii cooperative extension service pdf.)
1. Excellent for attracting beneficial insects, for reduced- or non-chemical pest management, for controlling erosion, suppressing weeds once established,
2. …and as a source of organic nitrogen good for quick growth and establishment,
3. …for bearing equipment traffic
4. …tolerates low fertility soils
5…. fair shade tolerance suitable for higher elevations
6. …good forage for animal grazing systems;
7. …high production, nutritional quality, and palatability
8. For use in plantation and orchard cropping systems including macadamia and coffee, in vineyards, and as a living mulch in vegetable cropping systems.”
In doing research for this article I came across a blog: insteading.com they use white clover as a living mulch, planting it in the garden to keep down weeds; eventually, it becomes mulch, retains moisture, attracts pollinators, and improves the soil. When I visited Michael Judd’s property, (author of Edible Landscapes), I saw his use of crops like mint growing in many places. He explained to us that he was not worried about keeping them harnessed. He cut them down periodically during the growing season and they became mulch there and then. It seems Insteading supports the same practices.
Last but not least, white clovers attract pollinators. White clover honey is one of the most popular honey here in the US, light in color and milder in taste.
Teas are easy: gather flowers, leaves at peak growing times, dry, store in glass jars. These plant parts can be combined with other herbs for tea making. A few white clover blossoms along with red clovers can be added to ice teas too creating pleasing summertime drinks.
White clover flowers dried, then ground into flour can be added to bread recipes. Southern forager shares a bread recipe made from dehydrated and dried, ground white clover blossom flour. I have found forager sites have great uses and recipes for meadow plants.
I hope you look at white clovers in lawns, gardens, and paths a bit differently. This little plant often mowed and ignored provides a host of uses. Do you have a favorite recipe? Please share…I’d like that.
Workshop: Into the Land of Dreams
Judith Dreyer, MS, BSN
Time: 6:30 – 8 pm
Date: Monday evenings: November 5,12, 19th and December 3rd
Location: Contact Storyteller’s Cottage, Simsbury CT. to register.
Did you know dreams come to guide you? Did you know the dreams of your heart guide you, too?
Dreams are not just about our nighttime journeys but more encompassing than you can ever imagine. And, dreams are our birthright.
But how do we understand our dreams and the dreaming time? This workshop will give you tools to begin your journey and excite your imagination. Dream sharing is a part of every class and you will learn an easy but profound technique to capture the meaning and essence of your dreaming and create practical action. Materials are provided.
Plants help in so many ways. Got a cold? Drink peppermint or ginger tea. Can’t sleep? Make a cup of chamomile tea. Want to cook with a wild edible? Harvest some nettles in spring, throw chopped leaves into a pot of soup, or steam like spinach and add to rice, pasta, veggies.
We forage for plants all the time. Some of us go to supermarkets where the harvesting is done for us and we can pick and choose. Some of us like wilder varieties and harvest from our land and gardens. We marvel at meadows that sway and glow with a variety of colors. Trees and shrubs contribute too to our gathering, whether wood to burn, wood to use for product, berries to eat, nuts to gather. So much in our natural world supports us.
But let’s go deeper. We have many areas in our country contaminated by toxic wastes. Watersheds are polluted. Soils are denatured and rendered unhealthy. Air can be dense with toxic fumes. How do we clean these basic elements up and leave a cleaner legacy for our children and future generations? My podcast guest this week, Kat Van Deusen, an ecological engineer has created a firm with partners that do just that: they clean up toxic spills with plants.
She states: Many of our undeveloped lands in these states, specifically New York and New Jersey, have soils and waterways contaminated with:
Dry cleaner fluids (particularly toxic)
These sites are termed Brownfield sites. Our traditional way of dealing with contaminated sites is to extract the soil, remove it. Then the question becomes where do we dump this toxic soil? Other techniques for water breaks down the contaminants and then sprays them into the air. Is that further contributing to air pollution?
Kat is unique in this field. As a trained scientist she uses the skills and tools from her education. However, her grandmother taught her something about working with the plant kingdom in more traditional, esoteric ways. Kat has a knack for scouting out an area, observing plant species present which often leads to a hidden toxic dump site. How does she do this? The plants tell her, she replies.
How does she work?
- She evaluates the landscape or Brownfield.
- Evaluates plant and tree species present; these two steps are complex as our topography undulates, has curves and slopes.
- If she has to replant the area, she uses plants/trees in multiple steps to prevent further contamination into water or lowlands.
- Specific plants/trees can eat up contaminants, metabolize them, which results in the expiration of water vapor into the air that is no longer toxic.
- First successors like cedar trees, pokeweed do this efficiently.
- Does it work? Groundwater is repeatedly tested and these scientists note an 80% reduction in contaminants in the soil and water.
- Cattails (Typha latifolia), Phragmites are great at protecting habitats. Have you observed these plants around waterways near our highways? While some may consider Phragmites to be invasive I find it interesting that these plants are part of nature’s clean-up crew. Dandelions are soil stabilizers. Did you know sunflowers are planted extensively around Chernobyl? They absorb the radiation from the soil. Fukushima sunflower project is underway.
Kat concluded our interview by stating nature has effectively engineered a way to create balance and the renewed hope of cleaning up our mess.
Lastly, she gives thanks to the plant kingdom for their guidance and when done, she often feels she receives their blessing.
She states: “The true measure of a scientist is to allow themselves to be open to all possibilities not the empirical.” This philosophy allows the scientist within and her scientific curiosity to blend with her matrilineal ability to perceive plants differently: which plants give a clue to a problem, which plants can literally eat up toxins and bring healthy renewal to our land. Her projects are unique. Her approach is innovative. Her results are measurable and positive.
Most of us love plants, nature in some way. Today our science is helping us get back into nature with more awe, respect, reverence even for the intelligence that is right there often in our own backyard. What have you observed in your gardens? We enjoy your comments.
Oh and please share. let’s get the word out. Together we can make a difference.
Description: What is eco-psyche-artistry? Meet Brian Stafford, founder of Wilderness is Medicine in Ojai, California. Brian guides healthcare professionals through nature-based resiliency and visionary leadership retreats. He is a soul-guide with the Animas Valley Institute.
Eco- connect to nature
psyche – encounter a being in nature or in a dream that mirrors your soul
artistry – begin to embody your unique soul gifts in the world.
Intrigued? I am. Join us for a soul-filled discussion that brings us back into nature and our wild selves.
About My Guest: Brian Stafford, MD, MPH is a depth psychiatrist, eco-therapist, wilderness guide, retreat facilitator, poet, speaker, essayist, and agent of human and cultural transformation, and the Founder of Wilderness Is Medicine. Previously, he was an academic pediatrician, and an adult, adolescent, child, perinatal and infant psychiatrist with over 30 clinical, research, and educational publications, research and service grants of over seven million dollars, as well as many institutional, state, and national awards, including an endowed chair. He currently guides nature-based resiliency and visionary leadership retreats for healthcare professionals through Wilderness Is Medicine and non-healthcare providers with the Animas Valley Institute.
He is finishing his first book, Wilderness Is Medicine.
Transcript: Podcast #16 Brian Stafford
Description: Do plants need saving? Yes. Why? Susan Leopold, executive director of United Plant Savers, unitedplantsavers.org. shares reasons why we are in danger of losing many plant species, through loss of habitat, overharvesting, non-sustainable farming practices. “United Plant Savers’ mission is to protect native medicinal plants of the United States and Canada and their native habitat while ensuring an abundant renewable supply of medicinal plants for generations to come.” Join Susan and me in a timely, deeply important discussion about preserving plants and their habitats for future generations.
About the Guest: Susan Leopold, Ph.D. Susan is an ethnobotanist and passionate defender of biodiversity. Over the past 20 years, Susan has worked extensively with indigenous peoples in Peru and Costa Rica. She is the Executive Director of United Plant Savers [www.unitedplantsavers.org] and Director of the Sacred Seeds Project. Prior to working at United Plant Savers, she was a rare botanical book librarian at the Oak Spring Garden Library, specializing in digitizing rare herbals and botanical travel manuscripts. She currently serves on the Board of Directors for Botanical Dimensions and the Center for Sustainable Economy. She is an advisory board member of ABC and a co-founder of the Medicines from the Edge conference in Costa Rica. She is a proud member of the Patawomeck Indian Tribe of Virginia and the author of the children’s book, Isabella’s Peppermint Flower, teaching about Virginia’s botanical history. She lives on and manages a productive farm, the Indian Pipe Botanical Sanctuary with her three children in Virginia, where she raises goats, peacocks, and herbs. She is an avid recreational tree climber, in love with the canopy just as much as the herbs of the forest floor.
Podcast Transcript: Susan Leopold Transcript