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White Melilot

Melilotus albus

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.
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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, 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, Wild Liquorice, Wood Vetch, Yellow Oxytropis, Yellow Vetch, Yellow Vetchling, Zigzag Clover
Life Cycle:
Annual or Biennial
Maximum Size:
150 centimetres tall
Fields, grassland, meadows, riversides, roadsides, sand dunes, wasteland.

White, 5 petals
The flowers of White Melilot (Melilotus albus) are petite and delicate, exhibiting a pristine white hue that imparts an understated elegance. These fragrant blossoms are arranged in compact clusters along tall, slender spikes. Each individual flower features a symmetrical, papilionaceous structure with five petals, including an upright banner petal, two wing petals, and two fused keel petals. These white blooms exude a sweet and pleasant fragrance, making them attractive to pollinators like bees and butterflies. In their simplicity and charm, the flowers of White Melilot add a touch of natural beauty to the landscapes they grace, often found in meadows, roadsides, and open fields throughout the United Kingdom.
The fruit of White Melilot (Melilotus albus) is a small, elongated pod, commonly referred to as a "seedpod." These pods, known as legumes, are typically brown in colour and appear after the flowering period. Each pod contains several small, round seeds that are often dark brown or black. These seeds are held tightly within the pods until they mature and eventually split open to disperse the seeds, aiding in the plant's reproduction. In the United Kingdom, the fruit of White Melilot serves as an essential part of its life cycle, contributing to the plant's ability to spread and thrive in various habitats.
The leaves of White Melilot (Melilotus albus) are composed of three distinct leaflets, a characteristic feature that classifies them as trifoliate. These leaflets are lance-shaped and possess a serrated or toothed margin. They are typically dark green in colour, providing a vivid contrast to the plant's white flowers when in bloom. The leaves are alternately arranged along the stem and are supported by a petiole. White Melilot's leaves are known for their lush appearance and are often used as forage for livestock in agricultural settings across the United Kingdom.
White Melilot (Melilotus albus) boasts a sweet and pleasing fragrance that is particularly distinctive and alluring. The scent of White Melilot is often described as gently honey-like, with subtle floral undertones. This delicate, natural perfume exudes from the plant's white blossoms, making it an inviting attraction for pollinators like bees and butterflies. The fragrance of White Melilot adds to the plant's overall charm, creating a sensory experience that complements its elegant appearance and enhances its role as a beneficial wildflower in the British landscape.
Other Names:
Bokhara Clover, Honey Clover, White Sweet Clover.
Frequency (UK):
Occasionally seen  

Other Information


Melilotus albus, also known as white sweet clover, is a species of annual or biennial plant in the Fabaceae family. It is native to Europe and Asia, and it typically found growing in disturbed areas such as roadsides, waste places and grassland. The plants can grow to a height of 1-1.5m (3-5ft) and produce clusters of small white flowers. The leaves are divided into 3 leaflets and are hairy. Like other Melilotus species, Melilotus albus is known to have medicinal properties such as expectorant and diuretic properties. It also is used as a source of food for cattle, green manure and it fixes Nitrogen in the soil, improving soil health.


White Melilot, also known as Melilotus albus, is a species of plant that belongs to the legume family. It is a perennial herbaceous plant that is native to Europe and Asia but has been introduced to other parts of the world, including North America, where it is considered an invasive species.

White Melilot has a tall, slender stem that can grow up to 1.5 meters in height. The leaves are alternate, trifoliate, and serrated, with a characteristic light green color. The flowers are small, white, and arranged in dense spikes, which can reach up to 20 cm in length. The plant blooms from June to August and produces a distinctive sweet aroma, which attracts bees and other pollinators.

White Melilot is an adaptable plant that can grow in a wide range of soil types, from sandy to heavy clay soils, and prefers moist to wet soils. It is commonly found in disturbed habitats, such as roadsides, railway tracks, and agricultural fields, where it can compete with other plants and reduce biodiversity.

Despite its invasive behavior, White Melilot has several uses. The plant contains coumarin, a natural compound that gives it a sweet odor and is used in the perfume and flavor industries. Coumarin has also been shown to have anticoagulant and anti-inflammatory properties and is used in traditional medicine to treat various ailments, such as headaches, arthritis, and respiratory infections.

White Melilot is also used as a forage crop for livestock, as it has a high protein content and is a good source of nutrients. The plant is often included in hay and silage mixtures, and its leaves and stems can be grazed by cattle, sheep, and goats.

However, the use of White Melilot as a forage crop should be carefully managed, as the plant can accumulate nitrates, which can be toxic to livestock if consumed in large quantities. The plant can also cause photosensitization in animals, which can lead to skin irritation and sunburn.

White Melilot has a rich history of traditional use in various cultures. For instance, in Europe, it was used as a medicinal herb for treating digestive disorders, fever, and skin conditions. In traditional Chinese medicine, it was used to treat asthma and coughs.

In addition to its medicinal properties, White Melilot has also been used as a natural insect repellent. The plant contains a chemical called coumarin, which is toxic to some insects and can be used to deter them. This makes White Melilot an eco-friendly alternative to synthetic insecticides.

White Melilot is also a nitrogen-fixing plant, which means that it has the ability to convert atmospheric nitrogen into a form that can be used by plants. This makes it a valuable plant for improving soil fertility and reducing the need for synthetic fertilizers.

However, as mentioned earlier, White Melilot is an invasive species that can outcompete native plants and reduce biodiversity. In North America, it is considered a noxious weed in many states and is actively managed to prevent its spread.

If you are considering using White Melilot for its various benefits, it is important to be aware of its potential impact on the local environment and to use it responsibly. This includes avoiding planting it in natural areas or areas where it can spread uncontrollably, and only using it in areas where it is permitted and not harmful to the local ecosystem.

White Melilot is also known to have allelopathic effects, meaning that it releases chemicals into the soil that can inhibit the growth of other plants. This can give White Melilot a competitive advantage over other plant species, further contributing to its invasive behavior.

One way to control the spread of White Melilot is through physical removal, such as pulling or cutting the plant before it goes to seed. However, this method can be labor-intensive and may not be effective in large infestations.

Another approach is to use herbicides, but this can also have negative impacts on the environment and non-target species. Therefore, it is important to use herbicides only as a last resort and to follow label instructions carefully.

White Melilot is a plant with both benefits and drawbacks. While it has a rich history of traditional use and can provide various ecological and agricultural benefits, it can also be invasive and harmful to biodiversity. It is important to carefully consider the potential impacts of White Melilot when using it and to use it responsibly to avoid unintended consequences.

One interesting aspect of White Melilot is its ability to form mutualistic relationships with soil bacteria known as rhizobia. These bacteria live in nodules on the roots of the plant and can fix atmospheric nitrogen, providing a source of nitrogen for the plant and other plants in the area.

The relationship between White Melilot and rhizobia is important for the plant's growth and survival, as it enables it to thrive in nitrogen-poor soils. In addition, the nitrogen fixed by the bacteria can be used by other plants in the area, contributing to soil fertility and promoting biodiversity.

White Melilot is also known to have antioxidant properties, which can help protect cells from damage caused by free radicals. Free radicals are molecules that can cause oxidative stress in the body, which has been linked to various health issues, including cancer and heart disease.

30 Facts About White Melilot

Here are 30 facts about White Melilot (Melilotus albus):

  1. White Melilot, also known as White Sweet Clover, is a herbaceous plant belonging to the pea family (Fabaceae).

  2. It is native to Eurasia but has become naturalized in many parts of North America.

  3. White Melilot typically grows to a height of 1 to 3 feet (30 to 90 cm).

  4. The plant has trifoliate leaves, meaning each leaf is divided into three leaflets.

  5. It produces small, white, fragrant flowers that are arranged in clusters on tall spikes.

  6. White Melilot flowers are often used by honeybees for nectar, making it an important honey plant.

  7. The plant's scientific name, Melilotus albus, is derived from the Latin words "mel," meaning honey, and "lotus," referring to a plant.

  8. White Melilot has a sweet, pleasant aroma, which is why it's sometimes called "Sweet Clover."

  9. It has a deep taproot that can help improve soil structure by breaking up compacted soil.

  10. White Melilot is known for its nitrogen-fixing ability, which makes it beneficial for enriching soil with nitrogen.

  11. The plant has been used in traditional medicine for various purposes, including as a diuretic and to relieve coughs.

  12. White Melilot has been used in herbal teas and tinctures for its potential medicinal benefits.

  13. In some cultures, White Melilot was used to make a fragrant sachet or potpourri.

  14. The seeds of White Melilot are tiny and can be used as a source of protein.

  15. The plant is known for its ability to improve soil fertility, making it a valuable cover crop in agriculture.

  16. White Melilot is a common sight in meadows, along roadsides, and in disturbed areas.

  17. It can tolerate a wide range of soil types but prefers well-drained soils.

  18. In some regions, White Melilot is considered invasive due to its ability to spread rapidly.

  19. White Melilot is a biennial or short-lived perennial plant.

  20. It has a tendency to accumulate toxic compounds called coumarins, which can be harmful to livestock when consumed in large quantities.

  21. Coumarin compounds found in White Melilot give it a distinctive scent and flavor.

  22. White Melilot has been used in traditional European cuisine as a flavoring agent for dishes and alcoholic beverages.

  23. The plant has naturalized in parts of North America and is often found in pastures and along roadsides.

  24. White Melilot is sometimes used as a cover crop to improve soil health and prevent erosion.

  25. It has a relatively short flowering period, typically from late spring to early summer.

  26. The leaves of White Melilot can be used as forage for livestock.

  27. In some regions, White Melilot is considered a weed due to its invasive nature.

  28. The plant's flowers are attractive to a variety of pollinators, including bees and butterflies.

  29. White Melilot is one of several species in the Melilotus genus, which includes both white and yellow-flowered varieties.

  30. The species name "albus" is Latin for "white," referring to the color of its flowers.


White Melilot filmed in Wigan Lancashire along the Leeds and Liverpool Canal on the 17th September 2023.


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Distribution Map

Reproduced by kind permission of the BSBI.

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