Wild Flowers of Pittsburgh

Yellow Sweet Clover (Melilotus officinalis)

Hard to tell from White Sweet Clover (M. alba) until they both bloom. When they do bloom, the yellow species reveals sloppier habits; the flower spikes are more ragged than the ones of M. alba, with withering flowers retained for a long time. Nevertheless, the delightful scent is enough to make us forget the slight slovenliness of the presentation. Yellow Sweet Clover grows plentifully along roadsides, and is often one of the first plants to colonize a recently disturbed site; this plant was growing in a park in Beechview where the earth had just been replaced after the building of a new playground. It was blooming in the middle of July.

Gray describes the genus and the species (and has anyone in history other than Asa Gray ever used the English word “melilot”?)

MELILÒTUS [Tourn.] Hill. MELILOT. SWEET CLOVER. Flowers much as in Trifolium, but in spike-like racemes, small. Corolla deciduous, free from the stamen-tube. Pod ovoid, coriaceous, wrinkled, longer than the calyx, scarcely dehiscent, 1-2-seeded. — Annual or biennial herbs, fragrant in drying, with pinnately 3-foliolate leaves. (Name from meli, honey, and lotos, some leguminous plant.)

M. officinalis (L.) Lam. (YELLOW M.) Upright, usually tall; leaflets obovate-oblong, obtuse, closely serrate; petals yellow, of nearly equal length. 6-9 mm. long; pod 2.5-3.5 mm. long, glabrous or glabrate, prominently cross-ribbed. — Waste or cultivated ground, common. (Nat. from Eu.)

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