What comes to mind when you hear the word clover? For me, it’s St. Patrick’s Day. A day characterized by green parades, with small green plants available in local garden stores and on every street corner.
Most people don’t realize that the popular plant on this particular day may not be the same as the one blossoming on your front lawn.
Clovers or wood sorrel are supposed to be emblems of faith, love, and optimism; however, some lawn lovers loathe them while others enjoy their company. The two are sometimes confused because of their palmately complex leaves.
Given the chance of both plants blooming in your yard simultaneously, let’s see wood sorrel vs clover.
Wood sorrel vs clover
What is wood sorrel
If you haven’t seen a wood sorrel on your lawn, I’m sure you’ve seen a gorgeous heart-shaped leaf or a pretty blossom used as a garnish in most high-end restaurants due to its sour taste.
Despite its popularity in fine dining establishments, Wood sorrel is a gardener’s nightmare. It is a common perennial or annual weed found on most of North America’s lawns, sidewalks, and flower beds. This weed, which has broad pale green leaves, is also known as sour grass, creeping wood sorrel, sheep’s clover, or oxalis.
This plant is easily identified throughout the summer when it blooms, producing tiny flowers of either yellow or purple tint with five petals that generate oval-shaped seed pods with pointy ends. When the seed pods develop, they split and produce several seeds, making them highly invasive.
Otherwise, you can identify it by its tri-compound heart-shaped leaves, with each leaflet spreading up to 12 inches broad. Furthermore, the brochures are smooth and drop and fold at night while expanding throughout the day.
What is clover
Have you ever noticed a clover growing on your lawn? If not, this plant, like the wood sorrel, has three leaves, but the leaves are rounded. Furthermore, it frequently stays green even when the rest of your grass is brown.
Clover is a legume plant that many homeowners appreciate for its ability to fix nitrogen in the soil.
They can, however, be a nuisance to many people due to their resistance to weed herbicides and ability to withstand close mowing.
Clovers are easily identified by their small white, red, or pink globe-shaped flowers, which attract bees due to their nectar.
With their similar leaf form, most people confuse clover and wood sorrel. However, there is a significant variation in how each of them grows.
The wood sorrel grows in Department of Agriculture plant hardiness zones 5 to 11, reaching up to 10 to 16 inches tall. The wood sorrel prefers to grow in the shade, where it spreads to form colonies using underground rhizomes.
However, this plant grows upright at first, thanks to a short tap root structure. As they mature, their stems have a prostrate growth, creating new plants from the small bulbils about 4 inches tall. As a result, the wood sorrel forms a dense leaf mat, earning it the nickname “sleeping beauty.”
Like the wood sorrel, the clover grows relatively low and forms a dense carpet. However, clover thrives in shaded and sunny conditions, unlike wood sorrel. Otherwise, the clover grows lower than the wood sorrel, to a height less than 1 foot tall.
But it also spreads via an extensive system of stolon. This high number of stolons makes this plant a formidable foe for most homeowners. Since the high number of stolons increases the chances of survival during harsh periods, it also roots at each node at the stolon, a quality that makes it perennial.
Let’s compare the benefits of the two. These two plants are not all bad; they have their advantages. The clover that some of us see as a weed can benefit our lawns. The clover has a way of giving back to the environment.
Clover puts back nitrogen into the soil. These legume plants draw nitrogen from the air, and with the help of bacteria, it fixes it into the ground. Additionally, it makes a good source of protein for livestock keepers.
On the other hand, the wood sorrel has no direct benefit to your yard but is rich in vitamin C, and its tangy flavor has it used in making soup, tea, and salads. Overeating will be toxic due to its high oxalic acid content.
The clover and the wood sorrel produce beautiful flowers that attract beneficial insects to your yard.
See also: Crabgrass look-alike weeds
Management and control
Wood sorrel and clover have different control methods that will be effective against each.
The wood sorrel is resilient against the herbicide, thanks to its fast-growing underground bulbils attached to the roots.
The only herbicides that have proven effective in ridding the wood sorrel are those that contain triclopyr.
Clover isn’t always a problem on lawns, but removing it or deterring it from spreading is the best option if clover is taking over your yard. Clover thrives and rapidly spreads in grounds with low levels of nitrogen.
So, applying fertilizers rich in nitrogen will deter it from spreading. A fast-release fertilizer will give you results quickly, or you can opt for organic fertilizers like blood meal.
However, both of them can be controlled by hand pulling, but you should carefully rip them out of the soil. Since if the roots break in the ground, they will regrow.
The hand pulling should be done before they flower since they have not developed seeds that will spread and sprout. When using this method, always act early.
See also: Which fungicide is best for lawn rust?
Wood sorrel and clovers are often purchased by flocks during St. Patrick’s Day, justifying the confusion between the wood sorrel and clover due to the arrangement of trifoliate leaves.
But with a closer view, you will notice a bold difference physically and with different purposes. They have numerous purposes, but the clover has more benefits on lawns than the wood sorrel.
Hopefully, this article on wood sorrel vs clover will let you tell the difference between the two and help you decide whether to keep or remove it from your lawn.
Kansas State University: white clover and yellow wood sorrel control