Greetings to all our Village plant enthusiasts. Welcome to this weeks’ “bi-Weekly Plant of Interest”. This week we’re focusing on a member of the Leguminosae (Pea or legume) family.
Trifolium burchellianum (Wild Clover in English, Wildeklaver in Afrikaans and musa-pelo in Sesotho) is a creeping annual herb growing to a regal height of just 200mm. For something so small it manages to scale to incredible heights of around 2800 m A.S.L., and enjoys moist grassland and grassland-rock ecotones. This tough little herb has a wide geographical distribution, ranging from the Western Cape through to the equatorial regions of Africa.
As the name Trifolium implies, the leaves of this herb are arranged in 3’s (tri = 3 and folium = leaves). T. burchellianum differs from a very similar species – T. africanum in that the former has broad leaves and pink florets, whilst the latter has narrow leaves with almost red florets. Their distribution does overlap so look closely, as what may appear as a single subspecies could possibly be 2. T. burchellianum is one of only 2 subspecies that are indigenous to Africa.
Leaves are hairless, 3-foliolate, broad (25 X 20mm) and wedge or heart shaped and very finely toothed. The floret head (approx. 30mm) is held aloft a stalk of around 70mm and is clustered and pink/purple. The flowers are small, often measuring less than 10mm. Flowering: Dec-March. Uses:
Our rangers report using this herb as a light snack as kids. The flower head is predominantly eaten and has a cabbage-like aftertaste – not completely unpleasant. It could make for an interesting decoration in some food dishes such as pasta or even a curry. Livestock have been seen grazing this species as an almost favourite food-source.
Reportedly, T. burchellianum has been used in traditional medicines – it can be chewed, infused as a tea to combat heart ailments, it has diuretic properties, helps induce sweeting and cleansing and is used in the treatment of sore throats.
The fragrant flower-heads are frequented by insects such as butterflies during the summer season. It may also have a role as ground cover in relatively well-shaded areas.
The SANBI conservation status for T. burchellianum is listed as of Least Concern.
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Head ranger: Clarens Village Nature Reserve