You are here

Yellow Sweet Clover

Yellow Sweetclover
Melilotus officinalis L.
(Order Fabales; Family Fabaceae)

Yellow Sweetclover flower. (Kansas Wildflowers and Grasses:

Stems: The stems are branches and glabrous (smooth) to sparsely pubescent (hairy). They are erect and ascending and can grow anywhere between 1 and 5 feet.
Leaves: The leaves are alternate and pinnately 3-leaved. They are shaped oblanceolate to egg-shaped and are 0.4 to 1.0 inches long and 0.2 to 0.8 inches wide. They are glabrous and have toothed margins.
Inflorescence: They contain anywhere from 30 to 70 flowers that form a raceme (flowers come off pedicels). They are shaped in a spike-like way and are 2 to 6 inches long.
Flowers: Like most Fabaceae flowers, they are bell-shaped. There are 5 lobes that are nearly equal in size and have pointed tips. The calyces are short and the corollas are papilionaceous. They are 1/5 to ¼ of an inch long and are yellow in color. There are 10 stamens, 9 united and 1 free.
Fruits: Like most Fabaceae plants, they produce pod-like fruits. They are egg-shaped and 1/10 to 1/5 of an inch long and are glabrous and brown. They usually only contain 1 seed that is yellowish-brown in color.

Flowering Period: This species flowers in May, June, July, August, and September.

Distribution: Melilotus officinales in the United States. From the USDA Plants Database


Distribution Kansas: From the USDA Plants Database


Native to Status: Yellow Sweetclover is not native to either the United States or Kansas. It was introduced from Eurasia.

Habitat: These plants tend to grow in disturbed sites (they are usually one of the first plants you’ll see in a disturbed site), rangeland, road sides, and waste areas.

Uses: These plants are used for forage and soil stabilization. They are an excellent source for honey production. Yellow Sweetclover also contains a potent anti-coagulant and it is used in medicines and poisons.

Conservation status: Secure

Etymology: Melilotus: meli- honey (Greek) and lotos (lotus, a kind of wild clover (Greek). officinalis: from its use in pharmacy.



Kansas Wildflowers & Grasses:


United States Department of Agriculture, Forest Service.  1988.  Range Plant Handbook.  Dover Publications, Inc., New York, New York.

Weberling, Focko, & Pankhurst, R.J. (1992). Morphology of flowers and inflorescence. Great Britain: University Press, Cambridge.

Image Credits:
Kansas Wildflowers and Grasses:
United States and Kansas Distribution Map from the USDA Plants Database


Submitted by: Kiersten Dixon, July 2011.


Wichita State University
Generated on 2011. This website is continuously updated.
Comments can be sent to Mary Liz Jameson.
Designed by Bioadventures.