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Useful Temperate Plants

Melilotus albus

Medik.

Fabaceae

+ Synonyms

Melilotus argutus Rchb.

Melilotus leucanthus DC.

Melilotus melanospermus Ser.

Melilotus vulgaris Willd.

Common Name: White Melilot

No Image.

General Information

Melilotus albus is an annual to biennial plant growing from a deep taproot. A single, erect to ascending, well-branched stem is produced in the first year, with up to 10 stems being produced in the second year of growth; the plant can grow up to 150cm tall[
418
Title
Ecocrop
Publication
 
Author
 
Website
http://ecocrop.fao.org/ecocrop/srv/en/home
Publisher
 
Year
0
ISBN
 
Description
Basic information on a wide range of useful plants, plus details of environmental needs where available.
,
1093
Title
Invasive Species Compendium
Publication
 
Author
 
Website
http://www.cabi.org
Publisher
 
Year
0
ISBN
 
Description
An immense resource - in depth information on over 900 species of invasive plants (it also has information on animals, fungi etc).
,
1145
Title
AgroAtlas
Publication
 
Author
 
Website
http://www.agroatlas.ru/en/index.html
Publisher
 
Year
0
ISBN
 
Description
An on-line database of economic plants of Russia and the surrounding countries that formed the USSR, giving botanical descriptions, distribution, habitats and uses. It also gives comprehensive information on climate, soil, pests, diseases etc
].
The plant is harvested from the wild for local use as a food, medicine and source of materials. It is cultivated as a green manure crop and soil improver and is sometimes grown as an ornamental and medicinal plant[
317
Title
Mansfeld's Database of Agricultural and Horticultural Plants
Publication
 
Author
 
Website
http://mansfeld.ipk-gatersleben.de/pls/htmldb_pgrc/f?p=185:3:4292127278597336
Publisher
 
Year
0
ISBN
 
Description
Terse details of a huge range of useful plants.
].
Melilotus albus has typical weedy attributes such as prolific seed production, persistence and presence along roadsides and railways, and as a result can negatively impact ecosystem services, wildlife habitats, and agriculture. Although the plant can be a problematic invasive species it is also important in many places as a fodder crop, a bee plant for honey production, soil stabiliser and a useful species for land reclamation[
1093
Title
Invasive Species Compendium
Publication
 
Author
 
Website
http://www.cabi.org
Publisher
 
Year
0
ISBN
 
Description
An immense resource - in depth information on over 900 species of invasive plants (it also has information on animals, fungi etc).
]

Known Hazards

The plant contains coumarin, a substance produced by the plant because it acts as an appetite suppressant and gives some protection from grazing - it is also the compound that gives some dried plants the smell of new mown hay. Coumarin is found naturally in many fruits, including strawberries, black currants, apricots, and cherries; it also has some medicinal applications, though it is also known to be toxic, affecting especially the liver and kidneys. Coumarin is of relatively low toxicity to humans – indeed it has often been used as a flavouring and aromatic additive in foods and other commodities. However, it can be much more toxic to other species, especially rodents and specifically rats.
The fresh plant material, consumed in moderation, is generally safe. However, the dried plant material, especially if it is not dried properly and is invaded by fungi, is potentially much more toxic as the coumarin breaks down to form other compounds that can have a strongly anticoagulant effect upon the blood. Warfarin, a well-known anticoagulant drug and rat poison, is one of those compounds produced from coumarin.

Botanical References

17
Title
Flora of the British Isles.
Publication
 
Author
Clapham, Tutin and Warburg.
Publisher
Cambridge University Press
Year
1962
ISBN
-
Description
A very comprehensive flora, the standard reference book but it has no pictures.
,
266
Title
Flora of China
Publication
 
Author
 
Website
http://flora.huh.harvard.edu/china/
Publisher
Missouri Botanical Garden Press; St. Louis.
Year
1994
ISBN
 
Description
An excellent, comprehensive resource in 25 volumes. In addition to the botanical information the flora also gives basic information on habitat and some uses. An on-line version is also available.

Range

Eurasia - Finland to Spain, east through Russia and Greece to W. Siberia, C. Asia, the Himalayas and Arabia; N. Africa - Libya, Egypt

Habitat

Fields and waste places on dry, not acid soils[
17
Title
Flora of the British Isles.
Publication
 
Author
Clapham, Tutin and Warburg.
Publisher
Cambridge University Press
Year
1962
ISBN
-
Description
A very comprehensive flora, the standard reference book but it has no pictures.
]. A plant of open, disturbed places, being found in sites such as sand dunes, prairies, desert scrub, roadsides etc, but avoiding the dryest areas[
1093
Title
Invasive Species Compendium
Publication
 
Author
 
Website
http://www.cabi.org
Publisher
 
Year
0
ISBN
 
Description
An immense resource - in depth information on over 900 species of invasive plants (it also has information on animals, fungi etc).
].

Properties

Weed PotentialYes
Edibility Rating *  *
Medicinal Rating *  *
Other Uses Rating *  *  *
HabitAnnual/Biennial
Height1.20 m
Growth RateFast
PollinatorsBees, Insects, Self
Self-fertileYes
Cultivation StatusWild

Cultivation Details

Melilotus albus is a plant of the temperate zone, where it is found at elevations up to 1,500 metres. It grows best in areas where annual daytime temperatures are within the range 12 - 28°c, but can tolerate 8 - 32°c[
418
Title
Ecocrop
Publication
 
Author
 
Website
http://ecocrop.fao.org/ecocrop/srv/en/home
Publisher
 
Year
0
ISBN
 
Description
Basic information on a wide range of useful plants, plus details of environmental needs where available.
]. When dormant, the plant can survive temperatures down to about -30°c, but young growth is more tender and can be severely damaged at -1°c[
418
Title
Ecocrop
Publication
 
Author
 
Website
http://ecocrop.fao.org/ecocrop/srv/en/home
Publisher
 
Year
0
ISBN
 
Description
Basic information on a wide range of useful plants, plus details of environmental needs where available.
]. It prefers a mean annual rainfall in the range 600 - 800mm, but tolerates 425 - 1,000mm[
418
Title
Ecocrop
Publication
 
Author
 
Website
http://ecocrop.fao.org/ecocrop/srv/en/home
Publisher
 
Year
0
ISBN
 
Description
Basic information on a wide range of useful plants, plus details of environmental needs where available.
].
Requires a sunny position[
418
Title
Ecocrop
Publication
 
Author
 
Website
http://ecocrop.fao.org/ecocrop/srv/en/home
Publisher
 
Year
0
ISBN
 
Description
Basic information on a wide range of useful plants, plus details of environmental needs where available.
] Succeeds on a wide range of soil types so long as they are well-drained[
418
Title
Ecocrop
Publication
 
Author
 
Website
http://ecocrop.fao.org/ecocrop/srv/en/home
Publisher
 
Year
0
ISBN
 
Description
Basic information on a wide range of useful plants, plus details of environmental needs where available.
]. It grows well in alkaline and moderately saline conditions, but dislikes acid conditions[
418
Title
Ecocrop
Publication
 
Author
 
Website
http://ecocrop.fao.org/ecocrop/srv/en/home
Publisher
 
Year
0
ISBN
 
Description
Basic information on a wide range of useful plants, plus details of environmental needs where available.
]. Prefers a pH in the range 6.5 - 7.5, tolerating 6 - 8[
418
Title
Ecocrop
Publication
 
Author
 
Website
http://ecocrop.fao.org/ecocrop/srv/en/home
Publisher
 
Year
0
ISBN
 
Description
Basic information on a wide range of useful plants, plus details of environmental needs where available.
]. Established plants are drought tolerant[
418
Title
Ecocrop
Publication
 
Author
 
Website
http://ecocrop.fao.org/ecocrop/srv/en/home
Publisher
 
Year
0
ISBN
 
Description
Basic information on a wide range of useful plants, plus details of environmental needs where available.
].
Cultivated as a medicinal plant, green manure and soil improver, some named forms have been developed[
317
Title
Mansfeld's Database of Agricultural and Horticultural Plants
Publication
 
Author
 
Website
http://mansfeld.ipk-gatersleben.de/pls/htmldb_pgrc/f?p=185:3:4292127278597336
Publisher
 
Year
0
ISBN
 
Description
Terse details of a huge range of useful plants.
].
A fast growing plant[
87
Title
Green Manures.
Publication
 
Author
Woodward. L. Burge. P.
Publisher
Elm Farm Research Centre.
Year
1982
ISBN
-
Description
Green manure crops for temperate areas. Quite a lot of information on a number of species.
].
The dried plant has a sweet smell of newly mown hay[
245
Title
Scented Flora of the World.
Publication
 
Author
Genders. R.
Publisher
Robert Hale. London.
Year
1994
ISBN
0-7090-5440-8
Description
An excellent, comprehensive book on scented plants giving a few other plant uses and brief cultivation details. There are no illustrations.
].
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
Title
The New RHS Dictionary of Gardening. 1992.
Publication
 
Author
Huxley. A.
Publisher
MacMillan Press
Year
1992
ISBN
0-333-47494-5
Description
Excellent and very comprehensive, though it contains a number of silly mistakes. Readable yet also very detailed.
].

Edible Uses

Leaves and seedpods - cooked as a 'bean soup'[
8
Title
Free for All.
Publication
 
Author
Ceres.
Publisher
Thorsons Publishers
Year
1977
ISBN
0-7225-0445-4
Description
Edible wild plants in Britain. Small booklet, nothing special.
,
105
Title
Tanaka's Cyclopedia of Edible Plants of the World.
Publication
 
Author
Tanaka. T. & Nakao S.
Publisher
Keigaku Publishing; Tokyo
Year
1976
ISBN
-
Description
The most comprehensive list of edible plants I've come across. Only the briefest entry for each species, though, and some of the entries are more than a little dubious. Not for the casual reader.
,
172
Title
Discovering Wild Plants - Alaska, W. Canada and the Northwest.
Publication
 
Author
Schofield. J. J.
Publisher
Alaska Northwest Books; Alaska
Year
2003
ISBN
0882403699
Description
A nice guide to some useful plants in that area.
].
Young shoots - raw or cooked[
8
Title
Free for All.
Publication
 
Author
Ceres.
Publisher
Thorsons Publishers
Year
1977
ISBN
0-7225-0445-4
Description
Edible wild plants in Britain. Small booklet, nothing special.
,
172
Title
Discovering Wild Plants - Alaska, W. Canada and the Northwest.
Publication
 
Author
Schofield. J. J.
Publisher
Alaska Northwest Books; Alaska
Year
2003
ISBN
0882403699
Description
A nice guide to some useful plants in that area.
]. Added to salads or used as a potherb[
183
Title
Cornucopia - A Source Book of Edible Plants.
Publication
 
Author
Facciola. S.
Publisher
Kampong Publications
Year
1990
ISBN
0-9628087-0-9
Description
Excellent. Contains a very wide range of conventional and unconventional food plants (including tropical) and where they can be obtained (mainly N. American nurseries but also research institutes and a lot of other nurseries from around the world.
].

The pea-like seeds are used as a seasoning for bean and split-pea soups[
183
Title
Cornucopia - A Source Book of Edible Plants.
Publication
 
Author
Facciola. S.
Publisher
Kampong Publications
Year
1990
ISBN
0-9628087-0-9
Description
Excellent. Contains a very wide range of conventional and unconventional food plants (including tropical) and where they can be obtained (mainly N. American nurseries but also research institutes and a lot of other nurseries from around the world.
].

Flowers - raw or cooked[
172
Title
Discovering Wild Plants - Alaska, W. Canada and the Northwest.
Publication
 
Author
Schofield. J. J.
Publisher
Alaska Northwest Books; Alaska
Year
2003
ISBN
0882403699
Description
A nice guide to some useful plants in that area.
]. Used as a vanilla-like flavouring[
177
Title
Plants for Human Consumption
Publication
 
Author
Kunkel. G.
Publisher
Koeltz Scientific Books
Year
1984
ISBN
3874292169
Description
An excellent book for the dedicated. A comprehensive listing of Latin names with a brief list of edible parts.
,
183
Title
Cornucopia - A Source Book of Edible Plants.
Publication
 
Author
Facciola. S.
Publisher
Kampong Publications
Year
1990
ISBN
0-9628087-0-9
Description
Excellent. Contains a very wide range of conventional and unconventional food plants (including tropical) and where they can be obtained (mainly N. American nurseries but also research institutes and a lot of other nurseries from around the world.
].

The dried leaves are said to be used as a vanilla flavouring[
172
Title
Discovering Wild Plants - Alaska, W. Canada and the Northwest.
Publication
 
Author
Schofield. J. J.
Publisher
Alaska Northwest Books; Alaska
Year
2003
ISBN
0882403699
Description
A nice guide to some useful plants in that area.
] but this is probably unwise, see notes at top of the page.

Medicinal

The whole herb, harvested when in flower, is aromatic, carminative and emollient[
4
Title
A Modern Herbal.
Publication
 
Author
Grieve.
Publisher
Penguin
Year
1984
ISBN
0-14-046-440-9
Description
Not so modern (1930's?) but lots of information, mainly temperate plants.
]. It was at one time widely esteemed as a medicinal herb, though it has fallen from favour in recent times[
4
Title
A Modern Herbal.
Publication
 
Author
Grieve.
Publisher
Penguin
Year
1984
ISBN
0-14-046-440-9
Description
Not so modern (1930's?) but lots of information, mainly temperate plants.
].

The dried leaves contain coumarin, this can be used as an anticlotting agent for the blood[
207
Title
The History and Folklore of North American Wild Flowers.
Publication
 
Author
Coffey. T.
Publisher
Facts on File.
Year
1993
ISBN
0-8160-2624-6
Description
A nice read, lots of information on plant uses.
]. The coumarin found in plants does not have anticoaggulant activity, it is the various compounds derived from coumarin that are used in this way. Simply drying the plant will not necessarily produce these compounds[
K
Title
Plants for a Future
Author
Ken Fern
Description
Notes from observations, tasting etc at Plants For A Future and on field trips.
].

The dried flowering plant has been used in ointments for external ulcers[
222
Title
A Field Guide to Medicinal Plants. Eastern and Central N. America.
Publication
 
Author
Foster. S. & Duke. J. A.
Publisher
Houghton Mifflin Co.
Year
1990
ISBN
0395467225
Description
A concise book dealing with almost 500 species. A line drawing of each plant is included plus colour photographs of about 100 species. Very good as a field guide, it only gives brief details about the plants medicinal properties.
].

Agroforestry Uses:

Melilotus albus is one of the best legumes for soil improvement, with widely-branched, deeply-penetrating tap roots that open up the subsoil. The roots use nutrients not available to plants with shallow roots. When the plants decay, the nutrients in the roots are released for use by other crops[
1145
Title
AgroAtlas
Publication
 
Author
 
Website
http://www.agroatlas.ru/en/index.html
Publisher
 
Year
0
ISBN
 
Description
An on-line database of economic plants of Russia and the surrounding countries that formed the USSR, giving botanical descriptions, distribution, habitats and uses. It also gives comprehensive information on climate, soil, pests, diseases etc
].
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[
20
Title
Companion Planting for Successful Gardening.
Publication
 
Author
Riotte. L.
Publisher
Garden Way, Vermont, USA.
Year
1978
ISBN
0-88266-064-0
Description
Fairly good.
, 87,172]. Fast growing, it produces a high bulk of organic material and also fixes a large quantity of atmospheric nitrogen[
87
Title
Green Manures.
Publication
 
Author
Woodward. L. Burge. P.
Publisher
Elm Farm Research Centre.
Year
1982
ISBN
-
Description
Green manure crops for temperate areas. Quite a lot of information on a number of species.
]. It can also be grown under soft and top fruit, when it will expel mice[
82
Title
Manual of the Trees of N. America.
Publication
 
Author
Sargent. C. S.
Website
http://www.biodiversitylibrary.org/
Publisher
Dover Publications Inc. New York.
Year
1965
ISBN
0-486-20278-X
Description
Two volumes, a comprehensive listing of N. American trees though a bit out of date now. Good details on habitats, some details on plant uses. Not really for the casual reader. It can be downloaded from the internet.
].
The plant is an excellent source of nectar and pollen for honey bees[
4
Title
A Modern Herbal.
Publication
 
Author
Grieve.
Publisher
Penguin
Year
1984
ISBN
0-14-046-440-9
Description
Not so modern (1930's?) but lots of information, mainly temperate plants.
,
46
Title
Dictionary of Economic Plants.
Publication
 
Author
Uphof. J. C. Th.
Publisher
Weinheim
Year
1959
ISBN
-
Description
An excellent and very comprehensive guide but it only gives very short descriptions of the uses without any details of how to utilize the plants. Not for the casual reader.
,
1145
Title
AgroAtlas
Publication
 
Author
 
Website
http://www.agroatlas.ru/en/index.html
Publisher
 
Year
0
ISBN
 
Description
An on-line database of economic plants of Russia and the surrounding countries that formed the USSR, giving botanical descriptions, distribution, habitats and uses. It also gives comprehensive information on climate, soil, pests, diseases etc
].

Other Uses

An oil obtained from the seed is used in paints, varnishes etc[
114
Title
The Plant Wealth of Iraq.
Publication
 
Author
Chakravarty. H. L.
Publisher
 
Year
 
ISBN
 
Description
It is surprising how many of these plants can be grown in Britain. A very readable book on the useful plants of Iraq.
].

The dried leaves smell of new-mown hay and are used as an insect repellent[
172
Title
Discovering Wild Plants - Alaska, W. Canada and the Northwest.
Publication
 
Author
Schofield. J. J.
Publisher
Alaska Northwest Books; Alaska
Year
2003
ISBN
0882403699
Description
A nice guide to some useful plants in that area.
]. 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
Title
The History and Folklore of North American Wild Flowers.
Publication
 
Author
Coffey. T.
Publisher
Facts on File.
Year
1993
ISBN
0-8160-2624-6
Description
A nice read, lots of information on plant uses.
].

An extract of the flowers, leaves and stems is used as an ingredient in commercial cosmetic preparations as an antimicrobial and an antioxidant[
1243
Title
CosIng
Publication
 
Author
 
Website
http://ec.europa.eu/growth/tools-databases/cosing/
Publisher
 
Year
0
ISBN
 
Description
CosIng is the European Commission database for information on cosmetic substances and ingredients.
].

Propagation

Seed - sow spring to mid-summer in situ[
87
Title
Green Manures.
Publication
 
Author
Woodward. L. Burge. P.
Publisher
Elm Farm Research Centre.
Year
1982
ISBN
-
Description
Green manure crops for temperate areas. Quite a lot of information on a number of species.
]. Pre-soaking the seed for 12 hours in warm water will speed up the germination process, particularly in dry weather[
K
Title
Plants for a Future
Author
Ken Fern
Description
Notes from observations, tasting etc at Plants For A Future and on field trips.
]. Germination will usually take place within 2 weeks. Seed can also be sown in the autumn and will flower the following spring to summer[
418
Title
Ecocrop
Publication
 
Author
 
Website
http://ecocrop.fao.org/ecocrop/srv/en/home
Publisher
 
Year
0
ISBN
 
Description
Basic information on a wide range of useful plants, plus details of environmental needs where available.
].
The seed produced can have either hard or soft seedcoats. Soft-coatd seeds germinate quickly without treatment, but hard-coated seeds can remain dormant in the soil for several years before germinating. In cultivation, the hard-coated seed requires pre-soaking in warm water in order to soften the seedcoat[
1093
Title
Invasive Species Compendium
Publication
 
Author
 
Website
http://www.cabi.org
Publisher
 
Year
0
ISBN
 
Description
An immense resource - in depth information on over 900 species of invasive plants (it also has information on animals, fungi etc).
].
Cite as: Temperate Plants Database, Ken Fern. temperate.theferns.info. 2019-09-18. <temperate.theferns.info/plant/Melilotus+albus>

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