Last spring, I was hunting bees at a friend’s home in Oregon. She told me to walk down the road until I came to the big-headed clover. Surely I would see bees there.
So off I went. But as I walked further and further downhill (always considering the return trip) I began to wonder if I could recognize a big-headed clover if I saw one. Did it look like a “regular” clover? How big is big? Maybe I passed it already.
Still, I kept walking and wondering until, suddenly, I heard big-headed clover. The sound of happy bees was unmistakable.
The bees I found were digger bees in the Anthophorini tribe. These bees are fast and noisy. They barely touch a bloom before they’re off to the next one, and they didn’t like me getting too close. As a result, my photos are not good enough for a more complete identification. But I loved seeing them anyway.
You won’t confuse it with other clover
As for the clover, there is no mistaking big-headed clover for other types. The flowers are huge and surprising. I fell in love at first sight.
It turns out that big-headed clover, aka large-head clover or Trifolium macrocephalum, is native to the Great Basin. It is now found in Nothern California, east of the Cascades in Washington and Oregon, and east into Nevada and Idaho. The plant grows in sandy or loamy soils at an elevation of 2000 to 5500 feet and blooms white, pink, rose, and lavender in mid-spring, April through June.
Big-headed clover is a fast-growing perennial with a short lifespan that is especially attractive to pollinators, including bees, butterflies, and moths. I saw it on April 29 of last year when the nights were still fairly cool, but the days were warm.
One reference said it grows freely in meadows and along streambanks and is used extensively in bee gardens. Good to know!
Honey Bee Suite
I love Big-headed clover. I have found it around the Ellensburg area on dry windy slopes under the windmills.