Melilotus adriaticus Borbas
Melilotus linearis Pers.
Melilotus macrorrhizus Pers.
Melilotus palustris Schult.
Common Name: Tall Melilot
Melilotus altissimus is a biennial to short-lived perennial plant growing from a thick rootstock; the erect stems are up to 150cm tall[
The plant is harvested from the wild for local use as a food and a medicine. It has been cultivated as a food and medicinal plant in China[
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.
Found throughout most of Europe excluding Britain, Finland, the Baltic States and Belarus
Waste places and woods, avoiding acid soils[
]. Wet meadows and pastures, at watersides, roadsides, in inhabited areas[
|Other Uses Rating
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 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[
Leaves and seedpods - cooked as a 'bean soup'[
Young shoots - cooked and eaten as a vegetable[
]. Also used as a flavouring[
]. Only eat the fresh plant, it becomes toxic if it is dried[
The seeds are used to treat colds[
The dried plant is used as a moth repellent[
The aromatic leaves are used to scent cosmetics[
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[