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Tall Melilot

Melilotus altissima

Please keep in mind that it is illegal to uproot a plant without the landowner's consent and care should be taken at all times not to damage wild plants. Wild plants should never be picked for pleasure and some plants are protected by law.
For more information please download the BSBI Code of Conduct PDF document.


Plant Profile

Flowering Months:
Fabaceae (Pea)
Also in this family:
Alpine Milk-vetch, Alsike Clover, Birdsfoot, Birdsfoot Clover, Bird's-foot Trefoil, Bithynian Vetch, Bitter Vetch, Black Broom, Black Medick, Bladder Senna, Broad Bean, Broad-leaved Everlasting Pea, Bur Medick, Burrowing Clover, Bush Vetch, Clustered Clover, Common Broom, Common Gorse, Common Laburnum, Common Restharrow, Common Vetch, Crimson Clover, Crown Vetch, Dragon's Teeth, Dwarf Gorse, Dyer's Greenweed, False Acacia, Fine-leaved Vetch, Fodder Vetch, Garden Lupin, Garden Pea, Goat's Rue, Grass Vetchling, Greater Bird's-foot Trefoil, Hairy Bird's-foot Trefoil, Hairy Greenweed, Hairy Tare, Hairy Vetchling, Hairy-fruited Broom, Haresfoot Clover, Hop Trefoil, Horseshoe Vetch, Hungarian Vetch, Kidney Vetch, Knotted Clover, Large Trefoil, Lesser Trefoil, Lucerne, Marsh Pea, Meadow Vetchling, Narrow-leaved Bird's-foot Trefoil, Narrow-leaved Everlasting Pea, Narrow-leaved Vetch, Nootka Lupin, Norfolk Everlasting Pea, Orange Birdsfoot, Petty Whin, Purple Milk-vetch, Purple Oxytropis, Red Clover, Reversed Clover, Ribbed Melilot, Rough Clover, Russell Lupin, Sainfoin, Scorpion Senna, Scottish Laburnum, Sea Clover, Sea Pea, Sickle Medick, Slender Bird's-foot Trefoil, Slender Tare, Slender Trefoil, Small Melilot, Small Restharrow, Smooth Tare, Spanish Broom, Spanish Gorse, Spiny Restharrow, Spotted Medick, Spring Vetch, Strawberry Clover, Suffocated Clover, Sulphur Clover, Toothed Medick, Tree Lupin, Tuberous Pea, Tufted Vetch, Twin-headed Clover, Two-flowered Everlasting Pea, Upright Clover, Upright Vetch, Western Clover, Western Gorse, White Broom, White Clover, White Lupin, White Melilot, Wild Liquorice, Wood Vetch, Yellow Oxytropis, Yellow Vetch, Yellow Vetchling, Zigzag Clover
Life Cycle:
Maximum Size:
3 metres tall
Grassland, roadsides, wasteland, woodland.

Yellow, 5 petals
Golden yellow flower spikes. The flowers are a shade darker than the similar-looking Ribbed Melilot whose flowers are lemon yellow. The winged petals are similar in length to the inner petals, or keel. In Ribbed Melilot the keels are shorter. The flowers of Tall Melilot are more dense than those of Ribbed Melilot.
Black ridged pods. Despite all of the differences mentioned on this page between the two species, the differences are very subtle and the only sure way to distinguish between them is by the colour of their seed pods. The seed pods of Ribbed Melilot are browner than those of Tall Melilot.
Trefoil leaves with forward pointing toothed leaflets. The stalk of the central leaflet is slightly longer than the stalks of the two outer leaflets. Melilots are biennial plants.
Smells of hay when dry due to a chemical called coumarin. This is the substance responsible for the toxicity of the plant.
Other Names:
Golden Melilot, Tall Sweetclover, Tall Yellow Sweetclover, Yellow Medick, Yellow Sweetclover.
Frequency (UK):

Other Information


Melilotus altissima, also known as tall sweetclover, is a species of annual or biennial plant in the Fabaceae family. It is native to Europe and Asia and typically found growing in disturbed areas such as roadsides and waste places. The plants can grow to a height of 2-3m (6-10ft) and produce clusters of small white or yellow flowers. The leaves are divided into 3 leaflets and are hairy. Melilotus altissima is considered a weed in many areas and is not typically grown for any specific use. It does fix Nitrogen in the soil and could be used for green manure.


Tall Melilot, also known as Melilotus altissima, is a member of the legume family that is native to Eurasia but has spread throughout the world. This tall, herbaceous plant can grow up to 10 feet (3 meters) in height and is often found in fields, meadows, and along roadsides.

One of the most distinctive features of Tall Melilot is its fragrant flowers, which bloom in late summer and early fall. These small, yellow flowers grow in long, slender spikes and attract bees and other pollinators. In addition to its ornamental value, Tall Melilot is also an important food source for livestock and wildlife.

Tall Melilot has a long history of use in traditional medicine. Its leaves and flowers contain coumarin, a natural compound that has anti-inflammatory and pain-relieving properties. Coumarin is also a blood thinner, and some studies suggest that it may have anti-cancer properties as well.

In addition to its medicinal properties, Tall Melilot has also been used for various other purposes throughout history. Its flowers have been used to make perfumes and potpourri, and its leaves have been used to make tea. In some cultures, Tall Melilot is considered a sacred plant and is used in religious ceremonies.

Despite its many benefits, Tall Melilot can also be invasive in some areas. It spreads quickly and can outcompete native plants, which can have negative ecological impacts. For this reason, it is important to be aware of its potential for invasiveness and to take appropriate steps to control its spread.

Tall Melilot is a versatile plant that can grow in a variety of soil types and can tolerate both wet and dry conditions. It is a nitrogen-fixing plant, which means it has the ability to take nitrogen from the air and convert it into a form that can be used by plants. This makes it a valuable crop for farmers, as it can improve soil fertility and reduce the need for synthetic fertilizers.

Tall Melilot is also a valuable plant for honeybees, as its nectar is rich in sugars and its pollen is high in protein. Honey made from Tall Melilot nectar is light in color and has a mild flavor that is popular with consumers.

In some countries, Tall Melilot has been used to make biofuels. Its high biomass production and ability to grow in marginal soils make it an attractive crop for producing renewable energy.

Some Facts about Tall Melilot

  1. Tall Melilot (Melilotus altissima) is a species of flowering plant in the legume family, Fabaceae.
  2. It is native to Eurasia but has been introduced to North America, where it is now considered invasive in some areas.
  3. The plant can grow up to 2 meters tall and has a single erect stem with many branches.
  4. The leaves are trifoliate, meaning they have three leaflets, and are usually alternate along the stem.
  5. The flowers are small and yellow, and are arranged in elongated, cylindrical spikes.
  6. The plant blooms from June to September.
  7. Tall Melilot is commonly used as a forage crop for livestock and as a soil improver due to its nitrogen-fixing capabilities.
  8. The plant contains coumarin, a natural compound that gives it a sweet, hay-like aroma and has been used in perfumes and flavorings.
  9. Coumarin is also used in traditional medicine to treat various ailments, such as headaches, inflammation, and respiratory infections.
  10. However, coumarin can be toxic in high doses and can cause liver damage, so it should be used with caution.
  11. Tall Melilot has been found to have potential as a bioenergy crop, as it can produce high yields of biomass and has a relatively low lignin content.
  12. The plant has also been studied for its ability to phytoremediate contaminated soils by absorbing heavy metals and other pollutants from the soil.
Tall Melilot, also known as Melilotus altissima, is a species of flowering plant in the legume family. It is native to Eurasia but has been introduced to North America and is considered invasive in some areas. The plant can grow up to 2 meters tall and has trifoliate leaves and small yellow flowers arranged in cylindrical spikes. It is commonly used as a forage crop and soil improver, and contains coumarin, which is used in perfumes and traditional medicine but can be toxic in high doses. Tall Melilot has potential as a bioenergy crop and for phytoremediation.

Distribution Map

Reproduced by kind permission of the BSBI.

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