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I Am Subterranean

Relationship Status: Single-year. Non-native nitrogen-fixing legume


My name is Trifolium subterraneum; you can call me TRISUB for short. I grew up in Europe & northern Africa, looked for love in all the wrong places, and so these days I’ve adapted to mainly self-fertilization. You’ve probably met a few of my exes (some bolder clovers), but I’m a little more subtle and shy with only a few flowers on my head. But I with my low early-season growth, self-sowing fruits creating a significant seedbank, and dense growth I can crowd out the competition. I do offer good forage for cattle and, I’m so hardy, I’m sown in Australia for green low-maintenance fire-lines. No bragging. I’ve been in the US since the 1920’s. I’m making my way across the Pacific Northwest now. I hope to see you around; maybe have a wintery date.


I am emerging.

From the dark and cool into glistening frost;

From a bank of dormant sisters,

Waiting to replace any being lost


Before the drought of summer,

Mother tucked me safely below her love,

In her bristled home-made baby basket

Warm in the dark, as she withered above.


Walking in sunshine or under our drizzled rain,

You can find me in your neighborhood

No knowing how I arrived or when,

Look down on me; it won’t look good.

Soon I’ll cover wherever I reach

And I’m a tasty nitrogen fixing protein treat

For the varied, trudging or shodden

Nibbling and probing ungulates I greet.


I’m short but I’m safe and I’m sweet

They won’t overgraze me from my seat.

Even fires barely lick at my feet,

My offset season it cannot defeat.


No need to watch your step

Your tread I can surely take.

I sprawl low in a fluffy mat of green,

Space for others among me I hardly make.


See drops caught on my fuzzy leaves

Making me splendid in shimmering dew

A fabulous Fabaceae, with terminal trinity

Leaflets of three, likely familiar to you.


Soon the spring drizzle will dry,

I’ll quietly erect my competitive blooms.

The surest I.D. of me, counting them little

Three to eight white tubes, some joined in maroon.

Between the depth of winter dark

And full kaleidoscope colors of mid spring,

I’ll make myself a mother,

Keeping genes tight in a family fling.


Then my peduncle will stretch and turn

Down and digging a geocarpic demonstration.

Self-fertile and self-seeding, I am super self-sufficient

Hardy and adept, I’ll handle any situation


Eat me, beat me, or burn me

I’m fodder, I spread and I allure

I hope you don’t mind my subterranean crawl

Into your yards and wildlands, I can endure.

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