Melilotus brachystachys Bunge
Trifolium dentatum Waldst. & Kit.
Melilotus dentatus is a biennial plant growing from a taproot with well-developed lateral branching. The ascending stems branch from the base; they are usually 30 - 90cm tall, occasionally reaching 140cm[
The plant can be used in land restoration projects, being especially useful in the remediation of saline soils.
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.
Eurasia - southern Sweden through Poland to the Balkans, east through the Caucasus and southern Siberia to Mongolia, northern China and central Asia
Wet or saline meadows, woodland edges, river banks and as a ruderal plant in fields, also sometimes found in woods and in steppe and semi-desert areas[
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Melilotus dentatus is able to withstand considerable winter cold[
Melilotus species require a sunny position. They can succeed in a range of soil types, so long as they are well-drained, often being found where the soil pH is somewhat alkaline and generally disliking acid conditions. This species grows well in saline soils and is drought resistant once established[
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[
Melilotus dentatus is one of the best legumes for improving salinized soils[
The plant is an excellent source of nectar and pollen for honey bees[
Seed - sow spring to mid-summer in situ[
]. Pre-soaking the seed for 12 hours in warm water will speed up the germination process, particularly in dry weather[
]. Germination will usually take place within 2 weeks.
The seed produced by biennial species in this genus 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[