Open the Advanced Search

Ribbed Melilot

Melilotus officinalis

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, 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, Tall Melilot, 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:
Annual or Biennial
Maximum Size:
2 metres tall
Fields, grassland, roadsides, wasteland.

Yellow, 5 petals
Lemon yellow spikes of pea-like flowers. The almost identical Tall Melilot is said to have golden-coloured flowers but they are very difficult to tell apart by the flowers alone. Ribbed Melilot is said to have a shorter inner petal in comparison with the outer ones. Tall Melilot has equal sized petals. Ribbed Melilot is also said to have a less dense flower spike.
Pea-like seed pod which typically contains 1 seed per pod. The only reliable way to separate Ribbed Melilot from Tall Melilot is by it's seed pods. Tall Melilot has black, hairy seed pods, and Ribbed Melilot has olive green, hairless seed pods.
Alternate, pinnate leaves, divided into 3 leaflets. Leaflets are oblong to obovate with serrated margins. Each of the leaves have 2 stipules at their leaf bases.
Smells sweet when in flower.
Other Names:
Bokhara Clover, Common Melilot, Field Melilot, Hart's Clover, Hart's Tree, Hay Flower, Honey Clover, King's-crown, Kumoniga, Plaster Clover, Sweet Clover, Sweet Lucerne, Wild Laburnum, Yellow Melilot, Yellow Millet, Yellow Sweet-clover.
Frequency (UK):

Similar Species

Other Information


Melilotus officinalis, also known as yellow sweet clover or ribbed melilot, is a species of annual or biennial plant in the Fabaceae family. It is native to Europe and Asia, and it is typically found growing in disturbed areas such as roadsides, waste places and grassland. The plants can grow to a height of 2 meters and produce clusters of small yellow flowers. The leaves are divided into 3 leaflets and are hairy. Melilotus officinalis has been traditionally used for medicinal purposes, primarily as a expectorant and diuretic. It also has been used as a source of food for cattle and green manure, it fixes Nitrogen in the soil and can improve soil health.


Ribbed Melilot (Melilotus officinalis) is a herbaceous plant that belongs to the Fabaceae family. It is native to Europe and Asia and has been introduced to other parts of the world, including North America, where it has become invasive in some areas. Ribbed Melilot is also known by other common names, including yellow sweet clover, yellow melilot, and king's clover.

The plant typically grows to a height of about 1-2 meters (3-6 feet) and has a distinctive ribbed stem with alternating leaves that are trifoliate and toothed. The plant's flowers are small and yellow and are borne in dense clusters at the end of the stems. They bloom from late spring to early fall, depending on the climate.

Ribbed Melilot is a hardy plant that can thrive in a range of soil types and environmental conditions. It is often found in disturbed areas such as roadsides, fields, and waste places. The plant is well-adapted to drought and can tolerate moderate levels of salt.

Ribbed Melilot has a long history of use in traditional medicine. It has been used to treat a variety of ailments, including respiratory infections, fever, digestive disorders, and skin conditions. The plant contains coumarin, a natural compound that has been shown to have anticoagulant and anti-inflammatory properties. Coumarin is also found in other plants, including sweet clover, which is a related species.

In addition to its medicinal properties, Ribbed Melilot has also been used for other purposes. The plant is sometimes used as a forage crop for livestock, as it is high in protein and has a sweet taste that is palatable to animals. It is also used as a green manure crop, as it can fix nitrogen in the soil and improve soil fertility.

Despite its many benefits, Ribbed Melilot can also be problematic in certain situations. The plant has the potential to become invasive and can outcompete native vegetation. It can also be toxic to some animals, particularly horses, which can develop a condition called sweet clover disease if they consume too much of the plant. Sweet clover disease can cause bleeding and other health problems.

Ribbed Melilot is a plant that has a lot of potential for use in agriculture, especially as a cover crop. Cover crops are plants that are grown in between cash crops to help maintain soil health and fertility. Ribbed Melilot has been shown to be effective at fixing nitrogen in the soil, which can reduce the need for synthetic fertilizers.

In addition to its agricultural uses, Ribbed Melilot has also been used in the perfume industry. The plant has a sweet, hay-like fragrance that is similar to coumarin, which is used as a fixative in perfumes. However, the use of coumarin in perfumes has been regulated in some countries due to concerns about potential health risks.

Ribbed Melilot has also been studied for its potential as a biofuel crop. The plant contains high levels of oil, which can be extracted and used to produce biodiesel. However, more research is needed to determine the feasibility of using Ribbed Melilot as a biofuel crop on a large scale.

Ribbed Melilot is a plant that has a lot of potential for use in a variety of different applications. While it can be problematic in certain situations, such as when it becomes invasive or when consumed by horses, it has many benefits that make it a valuable plant to study and explore. As researchers continue to study the plant, it is likely that even more uses for Ribbed Melilot will be discovered.

Another interesting aspect of Ribbed Melilot is its potential as a natural insecticide. The plant contains a compound called coumarin, which has been shown to have insecticidal properties. In particular, coumarin has been shown to be effective against mosquito larvae, making it a potential candidate for use in mosquito control programs.

In addition to its insecticidal properties, Ribbed Melilot has also been shown to have antimicrobial properties. Studies have found that extracts of the plant have activity against a variety of bacteria and fungi, including some that are resistant to conventional antibiotics. This suggests that Ribbed Melilot could be a valuable source of new antimicrobial agents for use in medicine and agriculture.

Ribbed Melilot is also a plant that has cultural significance in some parts of the world. In Lithuania, for example, the plant is associated with the festival of Rasos, which is celebrated on the summer solstice. During the festival, young girls make wreaths from Ribbed Melilot and other flowers and herbs, which they then float down rivers to predict their future husbands.

Ribbed Melilot has also been studied for its potential as a source of natural antioxidants. Antioxidants are compounds that help protect cells from damage caused by free radicals, which can contribute to a variety of diseases, including cancer and heart disease. Ribbed Melilot contains several compounds, including coumarin and flavonoids, that have antioxidant properties. This suggests that the plant could be a valuable source of natural antioxidants for use in medicine and health products.

In addition to its potential health benefits, Ribbed Melilot is also a plant that is important for pollinators. The plant's yellow flowers are attractive to bees, butterflies, and other pollinators, making it an important source of nectar and pollen in many ecosystems. By planting Ribbed Melilot, it is possible to support pollinator populations and promote biodiversity.

Finally, Ribbed Melilot is also a plant that has been used in traditional cuisine. In some parts of Europe, the plant has been used to flavor foods such as cheeses and breads. The plant's sweet, hay-like fragrance can add a unique flavor and aroma to dishes, making it a popular ingredient in some cuisines.

Overall, Ribbed Melilot is a plant that has many potential uses and benefits. From its medicinal properties to its potential as a source of natural insecticides and antioxidants, the plant is a valuable resource for researchers and innovators. By studying and exploring the plant, it is possible to discover new uses for Ribbed Melilot and to promote sustainable, eco-friendly practices in agriculture, medicine, and other industries.


Please remember to Like and Subscribe to the WildFlowerWeb YouTube channel at

Distribution Map

Reproduced by kind permission of the BSBI.

Click to open an Interactive Map