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Melilotus albus - Medik.

Common Name White Melilot
Family Fabaceae or Leguminosae
USDA hardiness Coming soon
Known Hazards Dried leaves can be toxic though the fresh leaves are quite safe[76]. This is due to the presence of coumarin, the substance that gives some dried plants the smell of new mown hay. Taken internally it can prevent the blood from clotting[207].
Habitats Fields and waste places on dry, not acid soils[17].
Range Europe to W. Asia. Naturalized in Britain.
Edibility Rating    (2 of 5)
Other Uses    (3 of 5)
Weed Potential No
Medicinal Rating    (2 of 5)
Care (info)
Well drained soil Moist Soil Full sun
Melilotus albus White Melilot

Melilotus albus White Melilot


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Physical Characteristics

 icon of manicon of flower
Melilotus albus is a ANNUAL/BIENNIAL growing to 1.2 m (4ft) at a fast rate.
It is not frost tender. It is in flower from July to August. The species is hermaphrodite (has both male and female organs) and is pollinated by Bees.
It can fix Nitrogen.
It is noted for attracting wildlife.
Suitable for: light (sandy), medium (loamy) and heavy (clay) soils and prefers well-drained soil. Suitable pH: neutral and basic (mildly alkaline) soils. It cannot grow in the shade. It prefers dry or moist soil.

UK Hardiness Map US Hardiness Map


Plant Habitats

Edible Uses

Edible Parts: Flowers  Leaves  Oil  Seed  Seedpod  Shoots
Edible Uses: Condiment  Oil

Leaves and seedpods - cooked as a 'bean soup'[8, 105, 172]. The pea-like seeds are used as a seasoning for bean and split-pea soups[183]. Young shoots - raw or cooked[8, 172]. Added to salads or used as a potherb[183]. Only fresh shoots should be used[62], the dried leaves contain coumarin[207]. Flowers - raw or cooked[172]. Used as a vanilla-like flavouring[177, 183]. The dried leaves are said to be used as a vanilla flavouring[172] but this is probably unwise, see notes at top of the page.

References   More on Edible Uses

Medicinal Uses

Plants For A Future can not take any responsibility for any adverse effects from the use of plants. Always seek advice from a professional before using a plant medicinally.
Anticoagulant  Aromatic  Carminative  Emollient  Poultice

The whole herb, harvested when in flower, is aromatic, carminative and emollient[4]. It was at one time widely esteemed as a medicinal herb, though it has fallen from favour in recent times[4]. The dried leaves contain coumarin, this can be used as an anticlotting agent for the blood[207]. The dried flowering plant has been used in ointments for external ulcers[222].

References   More on Medicinal Uses

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Other Uses

Green manure  Oil  Repellent

An oil obtained from the seed is used in paints, varnishes etc[114]. The dried leaves smell of new-mown hay and are used as an insect repellent[172]. The dried leaves contain a substance called coumarin, this is an anti-clotting agent and has been used as a basis of the rat killer 'warfarin'[207]. The plant is a good green manure crop[20, 87, 172]. It can be sown in the autumn and overwintered or sown from spring to mid summer. It can be cut several times for compost material before being finally incorporated into the soil[87]. Fast growing, it produces a high bulk of organic material and also fixes a large quantity of atmospheric nitrogen[87]. It can also be grown under soft and top fruit, when it will expel mice[82].

Special Uses

Attracts Wildlife  Nitrogen Fixer  Scented Plants

References   More on Other Uses

Cultivation details

A fast growing plant[87], it dislikes shade. A good bee plant[4, 46]. The dried plant has a sweet smell of newly mown hay[245]. This species has a symbiotic relationship with certain soil bacteria, these bacteria form nodules on the roots and fix atmospheric nitrogen. Some of this nitrogen is utilized by the growing plant but some can also be used by other plants growing nearby[200].

References   Carbon Farming Information and Carbon Sequestration Information

Temperature Converter

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The PFAF Bookshop

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Plant Propagation

Seed - sow spring to mid-summer in situ[87]. Pre-soaking the seed for 12 hours in warm water will speed up the germination process, particularly in dry weather[K]. Germination will usually take place within 2 weeks.

Other Names

If available other names are mentioned here

TEMPERATE ASIA: Oman, Saudi Arabia (as M. alba Medic.), Yemen, Afghanistan, Cyprus, Iran, Iraq, Israel, Jordan, Lebanon, Turkey, Russian Federation-Ciscaucasia (Ciscaucasia), Armenia, Azerbaijan, Georgia, Russian Federation (Dagestan), Russian Federation-Western Siberia (Western Siberia), Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, China TROPICAL ASIA: Bhutan, India, Pakistan, Myanmar EUROPE: Czechoslovakia, Austria, Germany, Hungary, Poland, Russian Federation (European part), Belarus, Estonia, Lithuania, Latvia, Moldova, Ukraine (incl. Krym), Former Yugoslavia, Albania, Bulgaria, Greece, Italy, Romania, Spain, France (incl. Corsica) AFRICA: Egypt (north), Libya (north)

Weed Potential

Right plant wrong place. We are currently updating this section. Please note that a plant may be invasive in one area but may not in your area so it’s worth checking.

Conservation Status

IUCN Red List of Threatened Plants Status :

Related Plants
Latin NameCommon NameHabitHeightHardinessGrowthSoilShadeMoistureEdibleMedicinalOther
Melilotus altissimusTall Melilot, Tall yellow sweetcloverBiennial/Perennial1.2 0-0  LMHSNDM201
Melilotus elegansElegant sweetcloverAnnual1.5 0-0  LMHNDM10 
Melilotus indicusAnnual Yellow SweetcloverAnnual1.0 5-9  LMHNDM121
Melilotus officinalisMelilot, SweetcloverAnnual/Biennial1.2 0-0  LMHNDM233
Melilotus suaveolensSweetcloverAnnual/Biennial1.0 0-0  LMHNDM11 
Melilotus wolgicusSweetcloverBiennial1.2 0-0  LMHNDM10 

Growth: S = slow M = medium F = fast. Soil: L = light (sandy) M = medium H = heavy (clay). pH: A = acid N = neutral B = basic (alkaline). Shade: F = full shade S = semi-shade N = no shade. Moisture: D = dry M = Moist We = wet Wa = water.


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