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Melilotus officinalis - Lam.

Common Name Melilot, Sweetclover
Family Fabaceae or Leguminosae
USDA hardiness Coming soon
Known Hazards The dried leaves can be toxic. though the fresh leaves are quite safe to use. This is possibly due to the presence of coumarin, the substance that gives some dried plants the smell of new mown hay, if taken internally it can prevent the blood clotting.
Habitats Grassy fields and roadsides, avoiding acid soils[17].
Range Europe to E. Asia. Naturalized in Britain.
Edibility Rating    (2 of 5)
Other Uses    (0 of 5)
Weed Potential Yes
Medicinal Rating    (3 of 5)
Care
Well drained soil Moist Soil Full sun
Melilotus officinalis Melilot, Sweetclover


Melilotus officinalis Melilot, Sweetclover
http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/User:Rasbak

 

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Summary


Physical Characteristics

 icon of manicon of flower
Melilotus officinalis is a ANNUAL/BIENNIAL growing to 1.2 m (4ft) by 0.7 m (2ft 4in).
It is not frost tender. It is in flower from July to September. The species is hermaphrodite (has both male and female organs) and is pollinated by Bees.
It can fix Nitrogen.
Suitable for: light (sandy), medium (loamy) and heavy (clay) soils, prefers well-drained soil and can grow in heavy clay soil. Suitable pH: neutral and basic (alkaline) soils and can grow in saline soils.
It cannot grow in the shade. It prefers dry or moist soil and can tolerate drought.

Synonyms

M. arvensis.

Habitats

 Cultivated Beds;

Edible Uses

Edible Parts: Flowers;  Leaves;  Root;  Seedpod.
Edible Uses: Condiment.

Root[46, 105, 172]. Consumed as a food by the Kalmuks[183]. Young shoots - cooked. Used like asparagus[183]. Young leaves are eaten in salads[13]. The leaves and seedpods are cooked as a vegetable[8, 55, 172]. They are used as a flavouring[46]. Only fresh leaves should be used, see the notes above on toxicity[62]. The crushed dried leaves can be used as a vanilla flavouring in puddings, pastries etc[177, 183, 238]. Caution is advised, see the notes above on toxicity. Flowers - raw or cooked[172]. The flowers and seeds are used as a flavouring[2]. The flowers also give an aromatic quality to some tisanes[7].

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.

Antispasmodic;  Aromatic;  Carminative;  Diuretic;  Emollient;  Expectorant;  Ophthalmic;  Vulnerary.


Melilot, used either externally or internally, can help treat varicose veins and haemorrhoids though it requires a long-term treatment for the effect to be realised[254]. Use of the plant also helps to reduce the risk of phlebitis and thrombosis[254]. Melilot contains coumarins and, as the plant dries or spoils, these become converted to dicoumarol, a powerful anticoagulant[254]. Thus the plant should be used with some caution, it should not be prescribed to patients with a history of poor blood clotting or who are taking warfarin medication[238]. See also the notes above on toxicity[21]. The flowering plant is antispasmodic, aromatic, carminative, diuretic, emollient, mildly expectorant, mildly sedative and vulnerary[4, 7, 9, 13, 21, 238, 240]. An infusion is used in the treatment of sleeplessness, nervous tension, neuralgia, palpitations, varicose veins, painful congestive menstruation, in the prevention of thrombosis, flatulence and intestinal disorders[7, 238]. Externally, it is used to treat eye inflammations, rheumatic pains, swollen joints, severe bruising, boils and erysipelas, whilst a decoction is added to the bath-water[9, 238]. The flowering plant is harvested in the summer and can be dried for later use[7]. A distilled water obtained from the flowering tops is an effective treatment for conjunctivitis[7].

Other Uses

Green manure;  Repellent.

The leaves contain coumarin and they release the pleasant smell of newly mown hay when they are drying[238]. The leaves are dried and used as an insect repellent[169, 172], especially in order to repel moths from clothing[13, 100, 238]. They can be put in pillows, mattresses etc[178]. Poorly dried or fermented leaves produce a substance called dicoumarol. This is a potent anti-coagulant which is extremely poisonous in excess, it prevents the blood from coagulating and so it is possible to bleed to death from very small wounds. Dicoumarol is used in rat poisons[238]. The plant can be used as a green manure, enriching the soil with nitrogen as well a providing organic matter[238].

Cultivation details

Prefers a well-drained to dry neutral to alkaline soil in a sunny position[238]. Prefers a clay or a saline soil[13]. Dislikes shade. Established plants are drought tolerant[238]. The flowers are rich in pollen making this a good bee plant[4, 7, 8, 13]. If they are cut back before flowering, the plants will grow on for at least another year before dying[115]. The dried plant has a sweet aromatic fragrance like 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].

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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

Found In

Countries where the plant has been found are listed here if the information is available

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 NameEdibility RatingMedicinal Rating
Melilotus albusWhite Melilot22
Melilotus altissimusTall Melilot, Tall yellow sweetclover20
Melilotus elegansElegant sweetclover10
Melilotus indicusAnnual Yellow Sweetclover12
Melilotus suaveolensSweetclover11
Melilotus wolgicusSweetclover10

 

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Expert comment

Author

Lam.

Botanical References

17

Links / References

For a list of references used on this page please go here

Readers comment

   Mon Aug 7 2006

It is not coumarin but dicoumarin, which is produced when a mould breaks down coumarin, that is the danger. careful dryig and storage should prevent this.

Neuza Ap.Menzato   Sun May 4 2008

Gostaria de saber o nome popular desta planta ?

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Subject : Melilotus officinalis  
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