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Yellow Sweetclover, Yellow Melilot, Common Melilot, Field Melilot, Cornilla Real, White Sweetclover - Melilotus officinalis


Family: Fabaceae - Pea family Genus Common Name: Sweetclover Native Status: IntroducedAnnual Bienniel Perennial Herb
Melilotus officinalis - Yellow Sweetclover, Yellow Melilot, Common Melilot, Field Melilot, Cornilla Real, White Sweetclover. An invasive species introduced from Eurasia which is now found in every state in the United States and most of Canada, and even in Greenland. The almost identical White Sweetclover is classified as the separate species Melilotus alba by some authorities, while others now consider it a white form of Melilotus officinalis, although some research indicates that they are incompatible, thus should be maintained as separate species. Melilotus indicus is another introduced yellow Sweetclover which is similar. Its flowers may be somewhat smaller, and it has a shorter pedicel - < 1mm. While it is still widely distributed in the United States, M. indicus is found only in 31 states, rather than in all 50 like M. officinalis.

It has a bitter taste but a sweet odor which is enhanced by drying.

Found in:
AK, AL, AR, AZ, CA, CO, CT, DC, DE, FL, GA, HI, IA, ID, IL, IN, KS, KY, LA, MA, MD, ME, MI, MN, MO, MS, MT, NC, ND, NE, NH, NJ, NM, NV, NY, OH, OK, OR, PA, RI, SC, SD, TN, TX, UT, VA, VT, WA, WI, WV, WY
Melilotus officinalis

Distribution of Melilotus officinalis in the United States and Canada:
USDA Plants Distribution Map temporarily unavailable.
Blue=Native; Grey=Introduced

Map from USDA Plants Database:
USDA, NRCS. 2017. The PLANTS Database (http://plants.usda.gov, 21 Oct 2017). National Plant Data Team, Greensboro, NC 27401-4901 USA.

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Site: Walker County, GA Date: 2012-May-06Photographer: Gerald C. Williamson
Nikon D7000
Tamron SP 90MM f/2.8 AF Macro
The yellow blossoms (or white if you consider M. alba to be a form if M. officinalis) of Melilotus officinalis are carried in many elongated racemes of 30 to 70 individual pedicelled, somewhat drooping flowers. They can be in linear arrangement on one or two sides of the peduncle, or in whorls, as shown here.
Melilotus officinalis

Site: Walker County, GA Date: 2012-May-06Photographer: Gerald C Williamson
Nikon D7000
Yellow Sweetclover can be a tall plant, growing to as much as 7 tall, although it may also may be as short as 2. They are branching, and while usually erect may sprawl.
Click on the photo for a larger image
Melilotus officinalis

Site: Walker County, GA Date: 2012-May-06Photographer: Gerald C Williamson
Nikon D7000
The petioled compound leaves of Yellow Sweetclover are trifoliate. The leaflets are shallowly serrate, and can range from broadly obovate to linear in shape.
Click on the photo for a larger image
Melilotus officinalis

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All content except USDA Plants Database map Copyright Gerald C. Williamson 2017
Photographs Copyright owned by the named photographer